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Heroes Wear Masks
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/16/2012 12:03:54

The Introduction speaks of how often 'traditional' fantasy games have elements of the heroic, and so morphing a fantasy ruleset directly into a superhero game makes logical sense - more a case of swapping out sword and spellbook for a spandex costume than a major seachange of approach or style. Pathfinder, it argues, is a particularly heroic ruleset, and so all the more reason for this adaptation.

Chapter 1: Character Creation launches straight in to the task of how to generate a superhero character Pathfinder style. It begins with the sheer scope of super-powered characters as presented in comics and movies, and makes the wise observation that the best heroes are not a mere collection of fantastic powers but have underlying personality and background, the potential to become a believeable individual (provided, that is, that you are prepared to believe that someone can have superpowers!). Many of the changes made are more cosmetic than systemic, based on the view of Pathfinder as a heroic game with a fantasy setting, and so the process of character creation and indeed gameplay mirrors regular Pathfinder, people used to playing it will find much that is familiar.

The character creation process starts with the all-important stage of discussing what you'd fancy playing with the GM. The best characters are those that fit in with the game setting and style that the GM has in mind. It's also wise to talk with the other players, so that you end up with a rounded group of characters. In place of character races, we have Origin - human, enhanced human, mutant or 'strange visitor' - which determines background and something about the source of the superpowers that you choose to have. Next you select a Class, which reflects the sort of superpowers that your character will have. You then pick the actual powers, as well as skills and feats. You may also choose Favours and Flaws, as well as equipping the character... and then you are good to go.

The chapter ends by examining the various Origins in greater detail. Humans are 'ordinary' people who undertake rigorous training or use advanced technology (such as powered armour) to take up the mantle of superheroes. Enhanced Humans started off normal, but have been endowed with superpowers artificially - perhaps by being bitten by a radioactive spider! Or they can be willing or unwilling subjects of exotic experiments designed to enhance their capabilities. Then there are Mutants who were born as something other than normal humans, and finally there are the strange visitors, the aliens among us. Each has advantages and disadvantages, all face the need to 'fit in' with normal people and face greater or lesser problems in doing so depending on the way in which they go about it. Consider the details here, the better you know not only what your character can do but how his powers came to be and how he copes with them, the more potent he will be in role-playing terms. There are examples and suggestions a-plenty to help you decide.

Next Chapter 2: Core Classes surveys the main strands of power types that you can choose. They are Acrobat, Brick (the strong brawling specialist), Combat Expert (who fights with honed skills rather than the brute force of the Brick), Dectective, Energy Manipulator, and Super Human (with a range of different powers including the ability to fly). Each comes with an array of class abilities that enable you to tailor the broad strokes of the core class into the specific character that you have in mind.

Chapter 3: Skills and Feats then looks at the skills and feats available for you to choose. All existing Pathfinder skills are available, some with tweaks to make them more suitable for superpower role-playing, and a few new ones have been added such as Drive and Knowledge (Supers) which allows you to recognise both superpowers and know about the people who wield them. There's also a Power Activation skill that you need to succeed in every time you want to use a superpower. I feel this may become too much of a hinderance and it's a likely candidate to be house-ruled out at many tables!

Feats likewise are closely based on the Pathfinder ones, but here some are listed as being unavailable - mostly magic-based ones. Now, if your concept of a super-heroic world includes magic, you may choose to amend this. New feats include Blindsense and Oversize Throw (which enables the hurling of massive items), along with that useful thing for any superhero, a Lair to retreat to! Oh and Utility Belt - not so much an accessory, but the ability to switch equipment at will. There are quite a few gun combat feats as well, should you have firearms-toting superheroes - or supervillains, if you decide that guns are not really heroic weapons.

Next, Chapter 4: Powers gets to the real heart of the game: those superpowers that your hero will wield to great effect. This is the key difference between Heroes Wear Masks and Pathfinder. In place of a magic system, each character (not just certain classes) has access to various powers which may, unless specified otherwise, be used whenever the character wishes without need for gestures or incantations. As a character gains levels, he can spend 'power points' to gain new powers or enhance existing ones. There is quite a good comparison of Pathfinder magic and Heroes Wear Masks powers, showing how the authors have remained true to the original Pathfinder approach yet come up with a system completely suited to the superhero genre. This is followed by a comprehensive list of powers, each with all the necessary rules for use. An interesting inclusion is the power Arcane, which confers the ability to use magic along with a collection of spells that a character with this power may cast. The Armour power is another interesting one, as it does not distinguish between natural armour and the sort that is worn as a suit, but merely deals with power levels and protection against specific threats (cold, radiation, blunt force and so on...). Beast Control covers not just speaking with animals or being able to influence them, but also allows the character to display attributes of his chosen animal type - frog legs, perhaps, or the claws of a tiger. This one power offers a vast range of possibilities, and this is the case for most of them. Once chosen, powers can then be tailored to create a unique and distinctive mix for each and every character, both by options within that power and by the application of more generic power templates which can be used to generate a coherent package of powers all based around, say, electricty or cold. This game is well suited to players who enjoy devising their own superhero characters, although if you prefer to recreate your favourite heroes from comics or films it ought not to be too hard to do so.

Chapter 5: Resource Points then looks at the way in which wealth is handled within the game. The average superhero is not motivated by stacks of money (and indeed superhero literature is littered with ones who are very well off indeed but still go out righting wrongs just because they want to do so). However, it can become necessary to work out just what a character can or cannot obtain in terms of equipment for personal use or to equip their lair or signature vehicle. The game is not designed to be 'stuff oriented' but sufficient items are listed to give the idea of the sort of items that your average neighbourhood superhero might require. The Favours and Flaws system mentioned earlier is covered here as well. Each character gets a Favour for free when generated, Flaws are optional but as well as adding flavour they also grant the character an additional Favour per Flaw (up to a total of 3 Flaws).

Characters generated and outfitted, on to Chapter 6: Expanded Game Rules - starting, naturally enough, with combat. Here the main differences between these rules and mainstream Pathfinder are detailed, it will be helpful to have a copy of Pathfinder to hand, or at least a good understanding of the ruleset, to make the most of the game mechanics discussed here. One feature is the necessary rules to deal with super-strength and the amazing feats possible to a superhero whose powers are based on strength. The chapter ends with some Advanced Classes and NPC Classes, most of these will be of interest to GMs rather than players.

Then comes Chapter 7: Super Heroes and RPGs, which opens with a discussion on what actually makes someone a hero. If your interest in playing a superhero has more depth than imagining a costumed character beating up bad guys in equally outlandish costumes, you are likely to find this thoughprovoking as it explores motivations and personal qualities before moving on to an exploration of what superheroes actually do. This is followed by equally detailed analysis on what makes a supervillain and what sort of things they do and why... remembering too that most people don't see themselves as 'evil' whatever the rest of the world might think about them! This rounds off with a look at anti-heroes and other grey areas. The discussion moves on to building memorable characters - possibly too memorable, as in a rare typesetting flaw in an otherwise well-proofed work the same column of text appears twice on the same page! There are good ideas on building motivations based on personal history, tying that in to the chosen powers and even on selecting an effective and distinctive costume. Goals and ambitions help too, most people have aims in life and superheroes are no different. There are a few thoughts on drawing inspiration from existing published superheroes, although if your aim is to recreate a classic superhero entire you may find it easier to choose one of the superhero games written with that in mind.

The discussion moves on to narration, how to get that epic wide-screen feel that superheroes have, especially during combat. It's now moving into GM territory, as much of the narration will have to come from the GM, setting the scene and then describing what happens. Mention is made of the classic locations where the action can take place, involving innocent bystanders and much more to help you create a vivid scene. There's more: about getting superheroes involved, about running investigations, about creating dilemmas and dramatic tension... and even about how to run a game where the characters are supervillains rather than superheroes. Ways to help characters establish secret identities - and then how to involve their personal lives as well as their costumed activities in the game... there's masses here to help even a novice GM run a good if not great game from the outset. Notes on building memorable encounters, adventures and whole campaigns are followed by an explanation of different types of superhero games, based around the classic comic book eras - the Golden Age, Silver Age, Bronze Age and Iron Age, then through to the Modern Era... and if you do not happen to know what these are, you will be well-informed by the time you have read this section! Then there's the setting you want - historical, contemporary, alternate-history... possibilities are endless. There's so much here, and it all repays careful study as you plan your game.

Next comes Chapter 8: Heroes INC. This provides several ready-made groups of superheroes to be allies for your characters, or who you could play if you are pressed for time and want to get straight into the action. Each hero is provided with full statistics, background and some plot hooks to get things going. There are also individual supervillains and even groups, although they tend not to team up as well as heroes... Finally, Chapter 9: Brown Out provides a complete adventure to get you started.

If you like superhero role-playing, especially if you like to come up with your own original heroes rather than play ones from the literature, then this is worth a look, especially if you already know your way around Pathfinder. It's a good adaptation of that ruleset, giving evidence of sound knowledge of both it and the superhero genre, clearly one loved by the authors. Get your spandex and cape out and enjoy!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Heroes Wear Masks
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Heroes Wear Masks
by Stephen P. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/03/2012 19:26:22

An interest set of rules that turn Pathfinder into a superhero game. I've made a few characters to test the rules out and you can make a wide variety of characters, though GMs may want to invent some creative stat generating techniques so certain classes feel more super-heroic. "Aw man I rolled a 13 for my Brick's strength" is not something that will sell this to your players. Also bearing in mind that a 1st level hero is basically a street vigilante, working their way up to "World Saving" heroes. There are a few typos and bits of missing info in the document (Like no skill ranks per level in the Combat Expert Class description). The only down side to running this as a game (campaign or one shot) is the limited amount of pre-made NPC, sure you're given the NPC classes, like Police Officer, Thug, Henchman, but you have to build them from scratch if you're not going to use the very specific ones given in the book.

All in all not a bad purchase, 220 pages of content for $9.99, less if you got it on special. I'm hoping I'll get to try it out at some point.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Heroes Wear Masks
by Curt M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/01/2012 16:58:34

I'm giving Heroes Wear Masks 4 Stars. A real Pathfinder enthusiast might give it five. As supers RPGs go, it isn't as well done as ICONS or M&M3, but it does make innovative use of the Pathfinder system. I was actually impressed by how comparatively little of the book is taken up with powers. The power template system takes the mechanics a long way without adding an additional 50-100 pages. This PDF does present some original stuff, not rehashed from d20 modern. The art is stuff we've seen before for the most part, but nicely recolored. Heroes Wear Masks is definately a leap in the right direction for Avalon Gaming Company's Pathfinder products, but I would have liked to have seen more of what distinguishes Pathfinder from 3.5 used, namely archetypes. A martial artist could be an archetype of the Acrobat class, for example. Note: I would have given this 3 stars had I paid full price for it. I got it as part of a promotional offer for $8. That price is pushing the limits of reasonable. $10 would be a non purchase for me. Then again, Pathfinder is not my game of choice.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Nova Blast Core
by David W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/26/2012 12:54:54

This game is a decent game, however there are as many negatives as there are positives. I couldn't help but feel that I was being overly generous with my rating, but felt a "3" would have been too harsh.

The artwork in this set is very unbalanced. Some of the artwork (like Adam Steel's figures, and the Fringe starmaps) are amazing, as well as the cover art. The templates are nice, and some of them have VERY beautiful graphics on them.

Some of the artwork is rather poor, and some of the Hive creatures are pretty badly drawn.

The rules seem a little hard to follow at first, but I am sure that once you have played this game a few times, then it will all make sence and could prove to be very entertaining.

One thing I noticed right away is that this set includes something rare that most publishers don't consider. A black and white "printer-friendly" version of all files. For people that want to conserve colored ink, this REALLY helps the overall rating of the game.

For roughly $8.00 USD, this game is one that seems well thought out, but also feels that it was rushed to get published, and could have benefitted from a little extra time in the drawing room to have more consistant artwork. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and there were many weak links to this set.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Nova Blast Core
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Dungeon Walls
by Ricardo N. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/20/2012 16:00:21

This is a set of modular walls and floor tiles. The walls are 2" tall and the tiles are 2"x2", therefore the whole set is particularly useful for creating corridors of various lengths. By grouping more tiles together it's possible to create rooms. The textures are good for both the dungeon and the village versions.

I find it odd that the dungeon door shown in the picture in the product's instructions is different from the one in the printable walls. The instructions also mention a page with the tile and tab templates to be glued to foamboard, but I couldn't find it.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Walls
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Avalon Counters, Steam Punk
by Chuck C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/20/2012 15:40:51

I was looking for standups, and these are not them. But if you need flat markers for some kind of a steampunk game, these would do just fine. The artwork is clean and the characters look spunky.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Avalon Counters, Steam Punk
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Leviathans
by Ricardo N. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/20/2012 11:03:02

This product delivers what it promises: a simple set of rules for battles involving steam war machines and infantry. Infantry is mounted on square stands, with multiple stands per unit, while the machines (whether tanks, walkers or flying units) use different sizes of bases.

The rules are clearly written, and include many examples. The book has a good layout, with only a few typos and pixelated illustrations. The colored background and margins mean that I won't be printing the whole book. It would be great if pages 30 and 31 (infantry table and quick reference) could be provided in black and white, just like they did with the templates. The book also includes three scenarios that are helpful for players to figure how to set up their own.

Bookkeeping during the game is mostly restricted to the war machines, which require a data sheet to keep track of damage, steam output and equipment. A roster sheet could be used for infantry but really, a few markers to track damage is all needed.

The game includes a system to build your war machine, along with some sample builds. It's not overly complicated and allows a lot of variations. The "troop transport" option is the only one that gave me concern, as it is not limited by the war machine's size.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Leviathans
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Fantasy Ships
by Stephen P. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/18/2012 12:45:12

Not bad for a "beginner" sea faring supplement, but my complaint comes from the deck plans. They were done in a very rudimentary program and they do not have the 1" grid I've come to expect superimposed on them, so it's had to know what you've got to scale the plans up to so they're the right size for miniature use.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Fantasy Ships
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Astral Empires, Starship Design Components Book
by Ricardo N. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/18/2012 12:22:46

I really like this set, since I love modular products. What you get are 76 ship components -- cannons, missiles, cockpits, wings and more, each one in a page. The pieces are 3D rendered models. The fact that they are mostly grey means tinting them with other colors with an image editor is really easy. I can see this being used to design ships for sci-fi RPGs, or to create flat models for starship combat games.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Astral Empires, Starship Design Components Book
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How to be a Great GM
by Michael H. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/10/2012 13:45:21

How to be a Great GM might be of interest to those brand new to GMing, but experienced GMs will find little in the book of use. That isn't to say that the book is bad: it's simply not something that anyone with a decent amount of experience under their belt will likely find very interesting. For novice GMs, the book does offer some solid advice to put the reader on the right path, though it tends more towards traditional advice which appears in many "GM guides."



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
How to be a Great GM
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Avalon Magic, Vol 2, Issues #1, Magical Jewelry
by Debra L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/05/2012 15:41:08

This is the second item I've bought. Luckily, these were cheap so wasting another buck and a half on a completely useless product isn't going to break my piggy-bank.

Please explain how this can be a gaming product since it contains so little actual gaming material. Nearly all the information contained herein can be found in the Pathfinder Core rule book or free on Wikipedia. I know what a ring is and how it works. If you own the Pathfinder Core book, this information is all there. Furthermore, there is some misinformation that was expressed. There is no sympathetic magic (yet) in Pathfinder. Just because the necklace has an amethyst in it, does not necessarily mean it wards off drunkenness Furthermore, it gets even basic information wrong. "Worn, the magical jewelry does not take up space or weight and is not as obvious as a wand or staff.." Really , because that crown might weigh a few pounds as the Prince Edward Crown weighs over 4 pounds,. That's why HRM Queen Victoria didn't wear it on her coronation. A Navajo squash blossom necklaces made of turquoise and silver can easily weigh more than half a pound.

The writing is juvenile and, sadly, lacks imagination: "It should seem odd for a ring of water walking to be in a cave at the center of a desert. More importantly, it should seem strange that there’d be more than one or two magic jewelry items in a dungeon." I thoroughly disagree with both of the above statements. For starters, if there is a cave in the desert, that's the first place a sensible person would go. It provides shelter from the heat and sand. Deserts simply evoke images of Egypt and the Valley of the Kings where King Tut's tomb was unearthed and where Indiana Jones discovered the Ark of the Covenant. Granted, it's not the middle of a desert but the Nile is certainly surrounded by desert. If my world contains sphinxes that can fly, it can have a ring of water walking found in a desert, probably discarded by said sphinx.

As for the second statement, she apparently thinks that the only time a dungeon is visited is when the PCs go there. Dungeon Ecology 101 is in order. Why shouldn't a GM give out more than 2 pieces of jewelry in a dungeon? Do you think no female adventures have died there? What happens to their stuff. Yeah right, the dungeon dwellers never take stuff and never leave the dungeon, not even to go raiding. Just reviewing this products is making me a tad sad and grumpy as it was such a disappointment. The information it contains isn't even worth the virtual space it takes up on my computer.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Avalon Magic, Vol 2, Issues #1, Magical Jewelry
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Avalon Treasure, Vol 2, Issue #1, Zoological Treasures
by Debra L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/05/2012 12:53:48

This product merely reiterates common knowledge. There were no new information that cannot be found free elsewhere and contained no actual gaming material no new item, animal or other gaming mechanism. There were no charts just a list of animals -- for that I paid a buck fifty and feel ripped off. If this were a preview for an actual product, I'd understand but as is, don't waste your money on this drek.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Avalon Treasure, Vol 2, Issue #1, Zoological Treasures
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How to Use Religion in Your Game
by Christopher H. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/04/2012 21:28:08

The content of this “how to” guide is rather helpful. The book starts with a discussion of various ways a GM might populate the divine realm—if any—in his or her game world, followed immediately by judicious consideration of approaches to divine intervention. The author, Michele Armellini, is careful to help GMs see the implications of their decisions for various character types, especially clerics, paladins, and the like in fantasy settings. Armellini also gives plenty of attention to the structure of institutional churches, their social roles, and the implications for using them in-game. Several examples and plot hooks round out the guide. Unfortunately, the production values don’t match the quality of the content. The writing isn’t bad at all, but does need some grammatical and stylistic polishing; the typesetting lacks imagination and skill; the stylistic inconsistency of the artwork—commercial clip art that you can buy right here on DriveThruRPG/RPGNow—creates dissonance. The content is worthy of four stars, but the production values bring that down a bit.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
How to Use Religion in Your Game
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Infinite Futures
by Stephen Y. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/04/2012 09:56:16

Infinite Futures seems a better 'effort' than World of Wonders. But, it still has some flaws. Typing errors (someone really should have proof-read it before releasing it).

The artwork (CGI), seems rather good in some sections, but not so good in others. In some sections, the artwork seems to have been 'attached' rather roughly, giving it a rough outline.

It's not a bad attempt at a D20 future theme. I'm going to be generous, and give it 4/5.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Infinite Futures
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Worlds of Wonder
by Stephen Y. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/04/2012 09:04:51

What looks like a rather good RPG at 328 pages, appears to be ok, rather than good or very good. Why? Every page is coloured a pale olive green (background), with various shades of green, purple, etc; in other words: print heavy (by the truck load). Don't get me wrong, it looks colourful, but it's guaranteed to use up a LOT of ink. I tried printing a few character sheets, and the ink levels dropped noticeably. The task numbers don't appear to have been play-tested, as Near Impossible is only a 20, which seems rather easy. EVERYTHING is bought with gold (Gp). Some items are 0.5Gp or 0.25Gp? What about using silver, might be a good idea.

The usual typos here and there throughout the PDF. A full copy of the core rules set in a print friendly format? Where? I tried the Avalon website as well, but no luck finding the print friendly version. It seems to be a mixture of D20 & Chaosiums Call of Cthulhu & Basic Roleplaying (resistance table).

Some will like it, some won't. I'm more 50/50. It's ok, it's not bad. I'll have a look at Infinite Futures soon, hopefully it'll have a better impact than Worlds of Wonder.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Worlds of Wonder
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