Monday, April 25, 2011
Villains and Vigilantes - Enemies At Large!
While I thought Into the Sub-Realm had the potential to be an extremely difficult adventure, one thing in its favor was having some pretty cool villains. So, a villains book from the same guys had a lot of potential.
After kicking things off with some mock taunts at Ken Cliffe over his own villain sourcebook, Super-Crooks and Criminals, including that their monstrously strong brute could beat his monstrously strong brute (you wrote down a higher number for a statistic. Congratulations), we get the standard 30 new characters. Understand that as I say that, there’s rarely such thing as a “standard” V&V character. Unlike say Champions or Mutants and Masterminds this game never dealt in character archetypes, which usually lead to truly creative characters more often than the ones you saw in sourcebooks for those other superhero RPGs.
I’ll just come right out and say the most creative character this time around was easily Sien-Sun, or “Slim” thanks to the downside of his powers. He’s a one-armed martial artist who tries to avoid relying on his powers, but he often finds himself having to use his power to shoot energy balls that consume his body mass to use, resulting in him getting a little skinnier with each use. You’d think he’d be training his hand-to-hand accuracy or something instead of his accuracy with his energy balls if that’s the case.
Beyond him, this book also contains something I thought V&V had been sorely lacking for a long time: comedic villains (maybe sometime I’ll put up the characters I invented myself to fill that gap). There’s only the two, Billy the Kidder, who has the power to make you laugh and the more interesting The Trick (who has minor magic that’s annoying rather than destructive, the power to make things go wrong, and a pet blob), but they finally fill a void within the game’s premade material. I was a little confused by a third villain they work with sometimes who seems intended to be a kind of “lethal joke” villain. Confused because there’s really nothing humorous about the character, powers or personality-wise. Other than the fact that he’s a foot-tall toy robot THAT CAN KILL YOU I guess.
The other characters in Enemies At Large range from the interesting (like Mr. Midas, Ranger 423rd , the villains named after rivers in the underworld, and the bug-themed villain team), to the mediocre (maybe Gargan could beat Terra-Rizer, but his powers are a lot more pedestrian), to the just plain boring (like Rhonda, who isn’t even named Rhonda). And there’s just something cheesy about two roster books in a row that have matador-themed characters. Even if the one in this book has a much more interesting background and set of powers.
The art by Patrick Zircher is good, managing to make most of the characters distinct and memorable. Some of it’s retooled, though, and the art for Mr. Midas, Old Yeller and Twister at least will look familiar to anyone who’s thumbed through a copy of Classic Organizations for the Champions game.
This is overall a nice selection of villains to add to a V&V campaign, though, more than worth $4 for the download. The selection is good more often than it isn’t, and it really did feel like the authors were going that extra mile. For instance, a page is given over to the villains Mr. Midas usually hires as muscle, ones that aren’t part of the other 30, instead of just saying which of the main selection he hires most often. So it’s more like a book of 39 villains. Likewise there's the Cluster, the aformentioned team of insect-based villains, whose regular membership is provided in the book but is also a temporary home of sorts for various other similar villains. So if you want an excuse to reuse a villain like Cicada from FORCE, there you go.
Extras-wise, Enemies At Large comes off worse than Vigilantes International, what with the only bonus material being characters the authors had played in their own V&V campaigns once upon a time. With their secret origins left out, that is. If the characters’ ages are representative of when the authors played them, that’s probably for the best. They do have some interesting and unusual powers, and a creative GM could get some use out of them. They just don’t feel like much of a neat add-on to a roster book, where you just bought a bunch of NPCs anyway.
And where exactly can I read The Menagerie, anyway?