Designed to introduce newcomers to role-playing and particularly to the Mutants & Masterminds game, this book is written in a clear, informative and entertaining style that sweeps you along and just about has you reaching for your dice!
It opens by explaining its intent and giving a basic overview of what role-playing is about and then details the structure of what will follow: using the example of a young man recently accepted into Claremont Academy, a high school for potential superheroes, the essential game mechanics and underlying concepts will be introduced in a logical progression. Illustration is delightfully comic-book in style, fitting the flavour of the genre well.
First comes The Basics, wherein the core D20 game mechanic is explained in a beautifully straightforward way. From here, the statistics used to describe a character are explained, with each being linked to how it is used in mechanical terms. Each case is illustrated by a clear indication - often highlighted in a blue block - of how it is used when you need to roll dice to resolve a situation. With my teacher head on I am impressed by the quality of these explainations!
The next section is entitled Game Play and sets out to look at how the game is actually played, with an emphasis on the mechanics it is demonstrated clearly how dice and character statistics are used to determine success or failure in any situation. Role-playing seems to be assumed, it is no doubt thought reasonable that anyone wishing to play a role-playing game has grasped the idea of the character as the individual that he is within the alternate reality of the game setting, although I feel that it could do with greater emphasis lest the novice be left to feel that this is a glorified boardless board game where everything relies on the roll of a die!
Next, the character Firepower is introduced. This is the Claremont Academy student used as an example, and after he sets the headmaster's study on fire we meet him in full with a character sheet and explanation of his background and powers. No dry explanation though, you get to try it out in a short solo adventure (game-book style) where Firepower visits the Doom Room - a kind of gym for superheroes where they can try out their powers without causing or sustaining damage. Or at least, not too much. Each step of the way, the skills and powers you need to use and how is explained, so - assuming the dice are with you - both you and Firepower will get the hang of things!
Once Firepower has passed his first test, we meet his classmates, some other young heroes, again as annotated character sheets. It's a nice range of well-rounded and innovative characters (useful if you are short of ideas or want a quick bunch of young superheroes...).
Finally comes Superschool Slugfest - which is a staged combat exercise for the group of students to whom you have just been introduced. This one works best if one person takes on the role of Game Master while the rest of the group play the student characters. A map of the Doom Room is provided in the book, but it is more conventient to use one that you can download from the website, and you get some counters to use as well (map & counters are included in the download if you get the PDF version of this product). It is not made clear, but it appears that the exercise is for the students to fight each other in an all-out brawl, while the Doom Room systems contribute a bit more to the mayhem. It certainly should give all participants a good idea of how to use powers and other abilities in a combat situation with this ruleset.
The whole thing winds up with a Glossary (mostly of game mechanic terminology) and a What's Next section which lists the books published for the system and other resources available online.
Overall, it is an excellent introduction to the game mechanics and should give a good grounding in how the game works even to a novice player. Keep a copy on hand to show to potential recruits to your superhero team!