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Superlink Secret Files: Organized Crime
by Ron M. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/10/2009 12:07:13
Superlink Secret Files: Organized Crime
From: TPK Productions
Reviewed by:  Ron McClung

Superlink Secret Files: Organized Crime is a new Mutants & Masterminds d20 Supplement from TPK Productions.
This PDF is part of a series called Superlink Secret Files. This is the first of the series. This and future additions of this series will be collections of antagonists, rivals, and supporting cast members for a Mutants & Masterminds (M&M) campaign.  Organized Crime itself contains five “dark & gritty” criminal groups geared towards the more darker super hero games.Although super heroes are not my first favorite style of gaming, I have been known to do it. I have been impressed with past products put out by TPK and this one already impressed me at first glance by the layout and cover art.

From page # 3:
"Know your enemy.”

As said, contained within are several crime organizations for a dark super hero gaming universe in Mutants & Masterminds. They are presented in the PDF in order of visibility, meaning the first one is the group most likely known to a given party and so on. These organizations are generally associated to the Powers That Be setting (introduced by the Escape from Alcatraz! supplement, which I also reviewed), but can be imported into any setting with a little adjustment. 

Each entry follows a similar format, starting with an Introduction (a general description of how the organization came to be); Public Knowledge (information that investigators might discover if they research the criminal organization - just use the DC vs. an investigator's gathering information roll); Spotlight Characters (which have more detailed notes on history, abilities, and appearance); General Personnel (minions and other allies of the organization); Relations (a general discussion of the criminal organization's relations with other criminal groups); and an In Play section (ideas for the GM on how to use the organization).

The Deep Six, the first and most known of all these groups, is a group of super-villains with a tragic origin. The insidious group is made up of five death row inmates and a priest transformed into walking corpses by an experimental nerve gas. When they said "dark and gritty," they meant dark and gritty. This is a pretty horrific group and include the following: Horatio R. Hades - A level 10 sociopath serial killer who now is in a state of perpetual rot and has the ability to spread the zombie disease; Femme Fatale - The level 10 queen of the Deep Six who sucks life force to keep her human appearance; Yorick - a level 12 floating skull that has the ability to animate objects including his own clothing; Roadkill - the Deep Six level 11 brick with immense strength and invulnerability; Hellmouth - psychopathic mutated and abused boy-turned-zombie; and Dominican - a zombie of an insane priest who is a sadistic torturer of innocent people.
The Black Brigade is a mercenary group and revel in chaos and destruction of a military insurrection to the streets. Lead by the Black Colonel (how original...), this group of Third World military rejects and otherwise-unemployed professional soldiers hire themselves out to the highest bidder, may it be a terrorist state, drug cartel, or the mob. It is a very large army made up of a mixture of psychopaths willing to follow any order given for the money. However, there is a very interesting secret about their leader that I will not reveal here, but I find very interesting and something I can see used in a superhero game very well. This section also supplies complete stats of the standard members of the Black Brigade, Captain Bryant (an NPC a GM can use to introduce the Black Brigade to the players), and some of the hardware commonly used by the Black Brigade (for example LAWs Rocket, Hummer and Black Helicopters).

From page #2:
“ ...history and identity are unknown to the general public. Even those few vigilantes and veteran cops who have heard of him have never seen him. He may, infact, be a myth ....”

The Golden Don is a Hermetic magician and head of the Balsamo mob family. His Golden Boy button-men are backed up by supernatural beings from the ten worlds of the mystic Sephiroth. He is the most feared mob boss in the city. Using his magical abilities to gain his power in the underground, Frederico Balsamo (the original Golden Don) over the first half of the 20th century strengthened his position through any means possible. Working the likes of Aleister Crowley and the Corleone mob of New York City, he became a very powerful man by mid-century. After his untimely death, his son Giovanni took over, using the same skills in magic to maintain the Balsamo Empire. Combining two super-hero genre archetypes - the mob boss and the renegade sorcerer - this antagonist creates interesting possibilities. This section contains the stats for the Golden Don as well as a standard samples of a family crony and "magical allies."

The One is a street gang made up of superhuman teens with a variety of abilities. They are led by a proto-fascist named Rule who is a mystery to authorities and controls his gang with an iron fist. The major players of the gang range from level 7 to 9 and have some interesting powers. All six superhuman members of the gang are stat'ed out and are presented as antagonists for a teen or young superhero team.  

The Mathematician is probably the most intriguing of all the villains presented here. He is a secret crime kingpin who sits at the center of a complex and sinister web that is so overwhelmingly complex that all Gather Information skills against his organization automatically fail. So strange and mysterious, you are introduced to him by first reading a long story that sounds like a huge SAT word problem. Actually, it is a long convoluted plot of unfortunate circumstances, what seemed to be small crimes and random events. In actuality, it is just another complex plot mastered by the Mathematician. This is the kind of villain I like.

For all entries, the "In-Play" section supplies enough interesting GM-insight into each group and a few good "nuggets" of inspiration to create ways to integrate the group into your campaign. I found these inspiring and useful. As mentioned above, it also supplies a box called Public Knowledge, containing the DC for an investigator's Gathering Information roll to find out information on the group. These are very handy and I like the design concept.

With regard to layout, I was a little disappointed with the art this time. Escape from Alcatraz! had some seriously good art, but this fell short of that by a mile. It is less professional and more like what you would expect from a second-rate PDF.

In conclusion, this is a good e-book for anyone looking for new antagonists in the M&M campaign. It is also good for most any superhero game if you are willing to do a little conversion, because it does have quite a bit of storyline ideas. Some of these can even be used in other genres, with a little tweaking. One of the hardest things in any game is finding a good and challenging villain for your players and these are some pretty good ones. All the ideas are reasonably inspired and idea-provoking. I would recommend this to anyone who might need a new villain.

For more details on TPK Productions and their new Mutants & Masterminds d20 Supplement “Superlink Secret Files: Organized Crime” check them out at their website http://webpages.charter.net/jtondro/tpk.html, and at rpgnow.com.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Superlink Secret Files: Organized Crime
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Escape from Alcatraz!
by Ron M. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/10/2009 12:05:08
Escape from Alcatraz!
From: TPK Productions
Reviewed by:  Ron McClung

Escape from Alcatraz! is a new PDF Adventure for Mutants & Masterminds (M&M) from TPK Productions.

Escape from Alcatraz! is an adventure sourcebook that updates this historical penitentiary for a super-powered 21st Century of Mutants & Masterminds.

From the website:
“There are plenty of super-prisons, but only one Alcatraz – the last stop for the worst of criminals.”

This e-book can be used in three ways: as an adventure, as a villain sourcebook, and as a general campaign source. In the PDF, the author has researched historical information about the real-life Alcatraz to create a fictitious super-prison complete with information on the security forces of Alcatraz (humans and supers), how that security force reacts to escapes and other security breaches, as well as the daily schedule of activities within the prison. Also, interestingly, it includes some creative ways that California puts the super-prison to use as a money-making enterprise.

After the Introduction and How to Use This Book sections, the author dives you directly in with the Alcatraz Power Prison that includes a historical brief that is accurate up to the 1990s, when the super powers appeared and forced the need for a super prison. Also included in this are interesting nuggets of knowledge and inspiration like one called the Mystical Alcatraz - a couple of historically based myths about the prison. In addition, there are several Plot Hooks as well as notes about the Lighthouse and Escape Attempts. There are also a few flavor-added "newspaper articles" that really add to the work.

Following this are the Maps and Details which include a full-color Map of the Island and Map of the Cell Blocks. They are reasonably well done but look like anything someone could get out of a tourist brochure. However, the author claims they are original, based on actual plans of the prison. Each location is described in reasonable detail. Following this is the Prison Staff with numerous NPC stats. Included are the regular staff and supers like Magnitude. Also included is a set of generic stats for several different minimum security inmates.

From the website:
“In a world of super-powered madmen, mutant convicts, robotic life, and talking apes, Alcatraz still serves as the place criminals Don’t Want To Go.”

The Second Battle of Alcatraz is an adventure that revolves around the breaking out of a particular super villain - Prince Primeval - on the night of his execution.  It involves any number of the villains presented after the adventure. There are nearly 30 individual super beings (villains and heroes) that follow the adventure including Primeva (a descendant of Prince Primeval and the person attempting to break him out), Saint George (ghost of the great St. George possessing a super scientist human), White Dwarf (a dwarf gadgeteer bitter about his stature and leader of the Hollywood All-stars), The Behemoth (alien aquatic life form) , The Foo Fighter (alien 'gray' martial artist), The Mourner (spiritual embodiment of grief), La Nebulosa (Mexican thief) and of course, Prince Primeval himself. They are depicted in full color original art with complete histories and powers.  

It should be noted that all in this PDF is compatible with M&M Second Edition! I like the layout of the PDF, and the art is very well done - very comic-ish.

In conclusion, honestly, this deserves to be put into a book of some kind. It's a well-researched and laid out sourcebook for any M&M fan. And it has so many different uses. I like this in particular because it is based on something real life and projects it into a fictional world. Even if you do not play M&M, this can be useful for other super hero games like Champions or that other d20 superhero RPG.  

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Escape from Alcatraz!
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Publisher Reply:
Hey Jon. Glad you liked the book, and it's especially nice to hear you say it's useful for any superhero game regardless of system. Your review sounds like you are skeptical about the map. I'll let you know the story behind that. I did get an a tourist map of the prison from the bookstore on the island, but the Super-Prison we describe in the book has several new buildings which aren't on the map, and reconstructs some old buildings which have been destroyed in the last forty years. So we got an excellent artist to make new maps for us, working from that tourist map with heavy annotations as to how the 21st century Super-Prison differed. And there you go! New map, but all the coolness of the real thing. Cheers -- Jason Tondro
Superlink Secret Files: Organized Crime
by Jason C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/04/2006 00:00:00
Written very interestingly. I probably won't use book directly as written, but I plan to use many of the concepts present in the book. I really like the groups and methodologies and organizations featured, and I think the concept of the Mathematician (a criminal mastermind that has remained anonymous for years) is brilliant.


LIKED: Countless plot threads popped to mind as I read through the book. I value anything that helps foster my imagination...so this is very worthwhile.

DISLIKED: The art was really rather poor throughout the book. The pencils were ok in spots, but the coloring was truly bad. Doesn't hurt the information in the book which I think is invaluable, but nothing special to look at. Also, the borders of the pages have a dark graphic...why? Really need to provide a printer-friendlier version, especially seeing that art is worthless.

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Satisfied


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Superlink Secret Files: Organized Crime
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Escape from Alcatraz!
by Geoffrey A. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/16/2006 00:00:00
Very briefly this is a great product and one of the best I have bought. It tackles a prison, this time the Alcatraz and transforms into into a prison for super powered individuals.
You have people there on all sorts of charges and all sorts of powers.
The plot idea that one of the main prisoners is to be executed and that his followers want to stop this is very nice.
The artwork on the majority of the villains is outstanding.
You also get a history of the place which makes it that more interesting.
Recommended


LIKED: Artwork.
Prison
Details

DISLIKED: NA

QUALITY: Excellent

VALUE: Very Satisfied


Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Escape from Alcatraz!
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Escape from Alcatraz!
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/26/2005 00:00:00
Alcatraz as a super prison, that is a good idea and this sourcebook is a superb realization of that idea. Providing a detailed history of Alcatraz and the development of the prison (along with the fictional transformation into a super prison). Maps of the island and prison and a detailed discussion of the security measures and procedures.

In addition there are a wide variety of inmates from PL 8 to 16 (and a few heroes as well, one of whom is employed to help guard Alcatraz). Including a ready made team of super criminals in the mould of the Thunderbolts (criminals who masqueraded as heroes) and a scenario centered around a prison break to free all of these criminals into your campaign world.

If you are starting a new M&M 2nd ed campaign, this would provide an excellent starting point or if you have always wanted to incorporate a super powered prison break into your game, this in the sourcebook for you.

LIKED: Good art, real history and strong characters. Solid work.

DISLIKED: Calling supers "powers" took a little getting used to.

QUALITY: Excellent

VALUE: Very Satisfied


Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Escape from Alcatraz!
by Mitchel S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/20/2005 00:00:00
I am fairly new to the M&M system so this was one of the first pdf products for the 2.0 version of M&M that I ever purchased. All I can say about the product is WOW!!!

This book was incredibly well written, very informative, and full of characters which seemed to come to life ready to be played. I have been playing superhero games for 24 years and this is one of the few superhero products I have ever purchased that impressed me this much.

This is a 5 out 5 stars book and I would recommend it to all M&M players and anyone else who is looking to enliven their superhero games with the information and characters within. Well done to all involved.

LIKED: I enjoyed the characters, the full-color artwork, and the incredible visual appeal of the book based on its layout. This books layout matches some of the best I have ever seen by any publisher in the RPG industry.

DISLIKED: I didn't like that the book was only 88 pages long! I would have read and paid for another 88 pages. This book was just that fun to read!

QUALITY: Excellent

VALUE: Very Satisfied


Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Publisher Reply:
Thanks, Mitchel. It turns out "Alcatraz!" was one of the first 2.0 products released -- I think only "Zodiac Ring" and "Fires of War"' from Blackwyrm Games beat us to the punch. I'm glad you like it. That character art you liked so much is by Bill Jackson, who has done a lot of work for Champions fanzines like "Haymaker" over the years.Totally great guy to work with. The layout -- which I also thought rocked -- is from Angela Murray. This is her first gaming product, but she's already doing layout for our next book -- "Organized Crime" -- first in the "Superlink Secret Files" series. Cheers, JT
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