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    Field Guide to Superheroes Vol. 1
    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.



    Rating:
    [4 of 5 Stars!]
    Field Guide to Superheroes Vol. 1
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    Moreau-1 Files (ICONS)
    by Christopher H. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/17/2011 19:58:17

    In "The Moreau-1 Files," Vigilance Press offers us a modern-day supervillain, the titular Moreau-1. He's a robotic bioengineering genius; if you read Marvel comics, think of a cross between Ultron and the High Evolutionary. Game stats, a detailed backstory, and a couple of adventure hooks make it easy for ICONS GMs to incorporate Moreau-1 into their own stories, even if not set in the Vigilance universe. The product also includes a briefer writeup on Erepato, one of Moreau-1's bio-engineered creations who could make a conflict with Moreau-1 very interesting from a role-playing point of view.

    On the negative side, the product needs better proofreading, as it exhibits an uncomfortably high rate of misplaced or misused punctuation, grammatical errors, inconsistent spelling, and even missing ("a large weapons deal that bringing in") and misplaced words ("held for him ransom"). Furthermore, white text on colored backgrounds (especially the basic "paneled" background used throughout) and occasional inconsistencies in the typesetting (or errors in font embedding, perhaps) make reading difficult.



    Rating:
    [3 of 5 Stars!]
    Moreau-1 Files (ICONS)
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    Field Guide to Superheroes Vol. 2 (ICONS)
    by Curt M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/12/2011 16:33:59

    Another great release from a promising product line, Field Guide to Superheroes Volume 2 adds the next 10 heroes of the 40 total. Of note here is the Super Vehicle power. Mr. Kenson chose to leave out vehicle rules from the main icons book even though the 4C Creative Commons system included them. The Field Guide team has spent some Determination points and "retconed" them back in [yes I realize how nerdy that statement is :)]. Icons fans won't be disappointed with Dan Houser's art either. His art does as much for the icons brand as any write up. It is a key element to Icons' characterization. Any publisher wanting to release Icons products should strongly consider retaining his services.



    Rating:
    [5 of 5 Stars!]
    Field Guide to Superheroes Vol. 2 (ICONS)
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    World of Arkara: Gazetteer of the Canterbury Isles
    by Pete S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/10/2011 17:44:37

    The Canterbury Isles is a setting supplement for the World of Arkara fantasy setting designed for the OSRIC™ system. I reviewed the overview for that setting HERE: http://www.therpgsite.com/showthread.php?t=18407

    Technical Details The Gazetteer of the Canterbury Isles is only 17 pages, with 3 of those pages being the cover, OGL, and map, so there are actually only 14 pages of content. Artwork consists of a few character poses, an area map of the isles, and a map of the largest human city of Bondaea. The area map is very good, in full color, and depicts several islands of various size surrounding the Sheltered Sea. The map of Bondaea City is functional, but not nearly as attractive.

    The writing throughout is fairly clear. There were a few minor typos, the most jarring of which lists the Canterbury Isles as part of the World of Ariakus line (I’m assuming the world underwent a few name changes before publishing), but nothing that detracts too much from the reading,

    Content Despite its small page count, the Gazetteer of the Canterbury Isles contains a lot of useful information. The Canterbury Isles are a frontier region once inhabited only by elves until humans came along and were allowed to settle. The humans immediately started logging and cultivating the land, which angered the elves and has led to raised tensions and even armed conflict.

    Details for the major areas and settlements are provided, with enough information to get you started, but not so much that you feel cramped when designing adventures. These regions include a large mountain range, several forests, an abbey, a monastery, and several human cities and towns, including the city of Bondaea which is mapped and described in greater detail than the rest, and large enough to accommodate most urban adventures.

    Lots and lots of adventure ideas are scattered throughout the text. Some of them are fairly standard (elves and humans not getting along) while others are pretty interesting (like the dwarf queen who bound her clan to a dragon in exchange for the dragon’s help taking revenge for her husband’s death). Other possible adventures include a band of malicious Quicklings, manipulative succubi, marauding ogres, lizard men, and batrachians, and a growing anti-nonhuman sentiment fostered by priests of an intolerant god. One thing I noticed is that some of the adventure seeds seem to enter that “gray area” some GMs like to avoid in their games. Subjects like racism (we’re talking “real” racism here, as in dwarf vs. human vs. elf, etc.) as well as dubiously heroic deeds such as poisoning the ogre clan’s food supply so that they die out during the winter may not be for everyone and are easily ignored.

    Major NPCs such as the human duke, the elf queen, and others are given full writeups in the back of the book. These are good for inspiration, but I would probably modify some of their motivations and personalities if I were to use them. There are also two new classes, the Guardsman (a new specialized fighter-type class with its own abilities), and the Cloistered Cleric (a variant cleric class more like a scholarly monk).

    Overall This is a good product for any fantasy campaign setting. All of the conflicts are relevant to the isles, and the islands contain a good range of monsters and threats. You could easily begin a new campaign here and have the characters rise in level without ever leaving the isles. In fact, you don’t have to know anything else about Arkara to use this supplement. The fact that it’s self-contained makes it extremely useful and easy to drop into an existing campaign world. Of course, if you are using the World of Arkara, this product is a must-have as the maps, NPCs, and backgrounds all add depth to the setting.

    At $2.00, it's well worth the download price.



    Rating:
    [3 of 5 Stars!]
    World of Arkara: Gazetteer of the Canterbury Isles
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    Stormtroopers of the Deep (ICONS)
    by Christopher H. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/20/2010 00:29:23

    This is a fun little adventure very much in the spirit of WWII movies and comics. Most of the product focuses on a single encounter, though a long sidebar provides a compelling sequel that could lead into yet additional scenarios. "Stormtroopers of the Deep" is a very nice addition to Vigilance’s line of ICONS-compatible WWII superhero products. There are only a couple of production glitches: a typo or two and the fact that the sea serpent on the cover doesn’t match the description inside. A great value for $1.00.



    Rating:
    [5 of 5 Stars!]
    Stormtroopers of the Deep (ICONS)
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    Stormtroopers of the Deep (ICONS)
    by Thomas B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/10/2010 23:37:18

    This scenario puts the PCs out to see, guarding a mysterious package on a convoy, amid the news that the Nazis have another new trick up their sleeve, some kind of aquatic attack force. Though it is only mentioned as a possibility, if you're running the scenario, the PCs will encounter the new bad guys.

    This Battlescene entry is pretty robust, providing a new heroic NPC as well as a few new NPC statblocks. The scenario is easily expanded to switch from merely having the PCs hold off the convoy attack, to allowing the PCs to find the undersea base that the Nazis have launched from and try to take it out.

    Plenty of bang for your, literal, buck with this one as Vigilance Press continues to impress with their WWII entries for ICONS.



    Rating:
    [5 of 5 Stars!]
    Battlescenes: Werewolves of the Gestapo (ICONS)
    by Thomas B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/10/2010 23:25:53

    Again, we keep the focus on the Germans, this time with their lycanthrope stormtroopers.

    Like the previous WWII adventures, it is assumed that you are using Vigilance Force, The People's Revolution or The Crown Guard, though you can make your own characters for it. There are two separate "set-ups" provided, with one being for the Russians and the other being for either Americans or British.

    In either case, it is an extraction scenario, requiring that you deal with the werewolf gestapo (as the name implies), with the actual target changing based off of your "home" faction.

    While none of the Battlescenes are meant to be in-depth (they are, in fact, meant to be combat set pieces), this one does have a little more potential for variation in the outcome of events, with the PCs approach possibly altering the number of soldiers - werewolf or otherwise - that they have to deal with, as well as potentially taking it from an extraction scenario into a chase scenario.

    Provided are stats for werewolves, Silver Warwolves and Psychic Agents of the Nazi Occult Bureau, which can easily be lifted for your own scenarios. A very nice addition to the line-up.



    Rating:
    [5 of 5 Stars!]
    Battlescenes: Werewolves of the Gestapo (ICONS)
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    Battlescenes: Der Panzer Ritter (ICONS)
    by Thomas B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/10/2010 23:11:55

    This ICONS BattleScene isn't the first encounter with a giant robot, but this one is markedly different than the previous one, a Japanese Robot in Operation: Bookbinder. In this one, Der Panzer-Ritter is a fusion of magic and technology, powered by a combination of German scientists and Thule wizards.

    In fact, this one has an interesting extra option that can be unleashed if the fight with the Panzer-Ritter goes too easily, as the robot's very power source can prove to be hazardous to the PCs.

    This one feels incredibly "too the point", and a bit lighter than some of the other Battlescenes, but is also a very nice twist on a similar encounter that has already been used.



    Rating:
    [4 of 5 Stars!]
    Battlescenes: Der Panzer Ritter (ICONS)
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    Battlescenes: Operation Bookbinder
    by Justin P. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/08/2010 17:34:17

    This is the first Battlescene I've run and both myself and my players had a very good time with it. Taking place right after the decisive Battle of Midway, Operation Bookbinder sets the stage for retaliation by Japanese super-soldiers. There are two ways to play this out, one using a giant death robot (complete with mini death robots) and one against the Japanese super team, Shinjuwan Juunigatsu (found in Pearl Harbor December: Villains of WWII). I chose to run this against the giant death robot and the flavor for the encounter was perfect. The characters start out as transfers to the USS Enterprise after a message is intercepted which tells of an impending Japanese attack against the ship. The Enterprise had been positioned to look like she was in distress in hopes of luring the attack to the waiting American heroes...

    My players chose Old Glory, Captain Miracle, Marauder and Minuteman to take on this Battlescene and they were pushed to their limits trying to handle the scenario. In the end they were victorious but it was down to the wire and required some very quick thinking.

    If you are looking for something that really adds flavor to the Vigilance Force setting and provides your players with a difficult challenge that is not easily solved by beating up the bad guy, then I highly recommend Battlescenes: Operation Bookbinder.

    Vigilance Press nets a 5/5 rating for this scenario. Even though it's short, it's a well designed encounter that directly adds to the flavor of the setting no matter which antagonist you use when you run it.



    Rating:
    [5 of 5 Stars!]
    Battlescenes: Operation Bookbinder
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    Vigilance Force: Heroes of WWII (ICONS)
    by Justin P. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/08/2010 17:28:11

    Vigilance Force by Vigilance Press

    World War II has always been my favorite setting for superheroes and this line of products from Vigilance Press reminds me why. Starting with an interview of Old Glory, which reveals how he got his name, and ending with the Atrocity, Vigilance Force provides a solid base for running a WWII game where the PCs have a major impact on historical battles. This particular offering introduces the American heroes of WWII.

    What you'll find inside: Vigilance Force starts with an interview with Old Glory, who tells us a little of the backstory behind the team. Next is the Introduction where you get some information on the big picture of the setting and then you get right into the Heroes. They are:

    • Captain Miracle - A teenage super-genius who is constantly in trouble with his superiors.
    • Deuce - A gadgeteer who is driven by justice.
    • Freight Train - An invulnerable speedster who is haunted by the innocents left broken in his path.
    • Hornet - She is a world renowned scientist that can shrink and control insects, and is also the only female on the team.
    • Marauder - A vicious bulldozer of a soldier who is nearly impervious and heightened senses.
    • Minuteman (my personal favorite) - A mechanized suit of armor whose wearer can control time.
    • Old Glory - A young boy who can manipulate fire.
    • Agent Liberator - A super-soldier who is the only American ever to survive the transformation.
    • Talon - Native American superhero who can control wolves and eagles.
    • See Bee - Half Human/Half Merman, this hero can control water.

    Next up is the adventure hook you can drop in anywhere called "The Atrocity Incident." I'm not going to get into the details of it but suffice to say that the players will probably need to use something other than pure muscle to take this guy out.

    One thing I really appreciated from this supplement is that Vigilance Press does a good job of humanizing these larger-than-life heroes, giving the characters offered here their own distinct flavor complete with flaws, relationships and short-comings. Captain Miracle's backstory is missing for some reason, though. Vigilance Press also gets a tip of the hat for the adversaries they come up with which aren't easily taken out with a simple slugfest, requiring the heroes to think outside of the box to take them down. The Atrocity does not disappoint on that level.

    Icons never really had me excited until I sat down to play with Vigilance Force in Operation: Bookbinder. Now I am eagerly awaiting the next time I'll get to run one of these.

    Vigilance Press gets a 5/5 for Vigilance Force and from what I've seen of the other offerings by them, they're not slowing down. There are some flaws with this first book, such as Captain Miracle's backstory not making it in and the formatting. I'd much prefer having the characters on one single sheet for easy printing and handouts, but I am not going to dock them a star for these shortcomings on a five-point scale. My final scoring would be a 9/10 for Vigilance Force as I feel it is a good introduction to a WWII supers setting with likable characters and a good snapshot of why things are the way they are in the world.



    Rating:
    [5 of 5 Stars!]
    Vigilance Force: Heroes of WWII (ICONS)
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    Mecha Omega
    by jm d. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/01/2010 22:12:22

    While I appreciate the less is more concept, I felt that this product was a little lacking in crunchy goodness. Overall, the product provides a good starting point for bringing mecha into a d20 setting, but that's about it.

    I was slightly disappointed by the narrow range of mecha weapons and more disappointed by the fairly thin material for kaiju.

    I was also dismayed by how weak some of the mecha weapons were. While I understand the tiered equipment structure, I was surprised that a level one energy cannon was inferior to a .45 handgun!



    Rating:
    [2 of 5 Stars!]
    Mecha Omega
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    Field Guide to Superheroes Vol. 1
    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.



    Rating:
    [4 of 5 Stars!]
    Field Guide to Superheroes Vol. 1
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    Field Guide to Superheroes Vol. 1
    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



    Rating:
    [4 of 5 Stars!]
    Field Guide to Superheroes Vol. 1
    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.



    Rating:
    [5 of 5 Stars!]
    The Ice Palace (ICONS)
    by Thomas B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/14/2010 15:17:05

    The Good: Very adaptable, both to the PCs tactics and to a whole different era, as you can easily place it in modern times using the Nazi throwback angle.

    The Bad: Not a lot.

    Conclusion: Just a lot of options and material for the price, with flexibility allowing it to be used in World War II as written or in the modern day with minimal effort.

    For a full review (warning: spoilers), please visit: http://mostunreadblogever.blogspot.com/2010/11/tommys-take-on-ice-palace.html



    Rating:
    [5 of 5 Stars!]
    The Ice Palace (ICONS)
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