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Field Guide to Superheroes Vol. 1 $7.95
Average Rating:4.3 / 5
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Field Guide to Superheroes Vol. 1
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Field Guide to Superheroes Vol. 1
Publisher: Vigilance Press
by Christopher H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/23/2011 19:43:24

Each volume in the “Field Guide to Superheroes” series presents ten superhero archetypes, written up mechanically for ICONS but applicable to any superhero RPG. This first volume introduces the alien hero, android, animal hero, armored wonder, astronaut, avatar, comic relief, creepy hero, dark avenger, and defender. Just from the labels given, it’s evident that author Jason Tondro takes a functional rather than formal approach to superhero archetypes. That is, for Tondro, an archetype is not a power/ability template to be skinned, but a role in a superhero universe. For each archetype, Tondro offers a general description of the archetype, with ideas for typical qualities, challenges, powers, and so forth. This presentation usually occupies one or two pages, and includes an illustration be the, um, iconic ICONS artist, Dan Houser. Tondro then applies his own advice by presenting a specific hero for the Vigilance Press “Worlds of Wonder” setting. For each such hero, Tondro gives ICONS stats plus at least two or three pages of generally enjoyable “fluff.”

Tondro clearly “gets” the free-wheeling, fun-loving ICONS vibe, and this comes through in heroes like Wundermaus and the fabulous Frog-Girl. I consider Prometheus and the Veil to be the most inventive and interesting implementations of their archetypes (the avatar and dark avenger, respectively) in the book. Gigawatt seemed to have a far more tenuous connection with his archetype, the defender.

The character write-ups provide, by example, several great ideas for hero qualities and challenges. Two sidebars also introduce new powers: adaptation and equipment. A “Worlds of Wonder Lexicon” at the end of the book presents, alphabetically, dozens of significant aspects of the setting. It sounds like a fun world in which to set superhero adventures.

Volume 1 of the “Field Guide” exhibits generally high production values, though a few mistakes (such as the misuse of “pouring” for “poring”) did slip through. Also, for example, Tondro’s text tells us that the Eagle has white wings, but Houser’s drawing gives him brown wings. The lexicon entry for “Wonder Stories” doesn’t seem to fit, and the entries for “Wondercare,” “Wonderland,” and “Wonderwear” actually reproduce the definitions for “Tomorrow Man,” “Who Wants to Be a Wonder,” and “Wonder,” respectively. As a PDF, the book could greatly benefit from bookmarks. Also, the use of all capital letters throughout imitates the style of comic book word balloons but isn’t really appropriate for long blocks of text.

I very much enjoyed this product and look forward to volume 2.

[4 of 5 Stars!]
Field Guide to Superheroes Vol. 1
Publisher: Vigilance Press
by James C. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/28/2010 11:42:16

I'd rate this as the best ICONS supplement to date.

Most of the nitty-gritty is already available in other reviews, so I'll just mention a few points I found interesting.

GOOD POINTS: 1) Mr Tondro's writing is informative, entertaining and reasonably comprehensive. I haven't broken out my finetooth comb yet, but so far I haven't spotted any typos. 2) Mr Houser's art is, as always, very well suited to ICONS. For those who don't know, Mr Houser is also the artist for the ICONS core book. 3) The layout is clean and easily legible.

BAD POINTS: 1) At $7.95 for 75 pages (the last two being Open Game License legalese) and the rest being relatively large text, it tips out slightly over my usual 10 cents per page maximum, but not by much. Considering ICONS itself, as of this writing, is on SALE for $1 and has 72% more pages... Still I'm reasonably satisfied, as the content is definitely of excellent quality. 2) My only real annoyance is that this Secured PDF not only lacks bookmarks (really silly to miss, in my opinion), but doesn't even have SEARCHABLE TEXT, making jumping to the page you want much more difficult than should be necessary.

JUST ODD: For a Vigilance Press product, this book is slightly light on Nazis. Of the ten sample characters, they only feature prominently in the write ups of the Eagle, Victor, and Wundermaus (think Danger Mouse meets Nick Fury). ;)

OVERALL: I like this product a lot and I'm looking forward to the rest of the volumes in the series. It would be really nice, however, if the folks at Vigilance Press would kick up their efforts slightly and include both BOOKMARKS and (I can't believe I even have to mention this one) SEARCHABLE TEXT.

[4 of 5 Stars!]
Field Guide to Superheroes Vol. 1
Publisher: Vigilance Press
by Thomas B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/23/2010 14:35:38

The Good: Some GREAT advice making and using various hero archetypes, usable for many supers games.

The Bad: The sample characters/setting background is noticeably less interesting than the archetype stuff...and longer, too.

The Odd: In almost every case, the "generic" archetype image is cooler than the sample character.

For my full review, please visit: http://mostunreadblogever.blogspot.com/2010/11/tommys-take-on-field-guide-to.html

[4 of 5 Stars!]
Field Guide to Superheroes Vol. 1
Publisher: Vigilance Press
by Joseph B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/16/2010 22:10:45

Field Guide to Superheroes is a series of four books detailing 40 superhero character archetypes for the Icons system by Adamant Entertainment. The first ten archetypes alphabetically are included in this first volume (A through D). These archetypes are meant to represent the myriad of heroes seen in comics over the years.

The author Jason Tondro has a Ph.D in Literature specializing in Comics, and his knowledge of the genre really shows in this product. But don't let that fool you - this isn't some dry academic treatise - the writing is both informative and entertaining.

Both players and GMs will get a lot out of use from this book whether you use random Icons character generation or point buy. I particularly liked that the author acknowledges out of the gate that there is some overlap between archetypes in the characters seen in the comics. And he doesn't just pay lip service to this idea - the detailed archetypes are all given common related archetypes in the text and example characters.

I especially liked the Qualities and Challenges section found in each archetype. Coming up with these Aspects for Tagging and Compelling use can be the most difficult part of character creation, in particular for people not familiar with the concept, and there are lots of great ideas related to the archetype for fleshing out this section of your character .

There are also two new Powers in here: Adaption (x2) which gives temporarily gives you a Power related to the situation you are in (chosen by the GM or spend a Determination Point to override and pick it yourself) and Equipment, which basically gives you access to an array of low-powered tools (think Batman's Utility Belt).

Finally, after the archetype write-ups, there is a section that introduces the author's personal "default" campaign setting, Worlds of Wonder. This is like a bonus however and doesn't permeate the archetype write-ups which are setting neutral.

The beautiful layout and Dan Houser's artwork puts this product over the top. Vigilance Press has taken the Icons license from Adamant Entertainment and really run with it.

This is a well-crafted enhancement to the Icons core rules. I can honestly say this is the best Icons third party support product I have seen to date and look forward to the rest of the volumes in the series when they come out.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
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