Monday, April 18, 2011
Villains and Vigilantes - Vigilantes International
In my Danger in the Depths review, I mentioned that one of my favorite contributors to the Villains and Vigilantes game was Ken Cliffe. My favorite thing was the way he wrote each of his books as part of a cohesive universe. The connections between books might be little things, but they were there if you could spot them. Here, I respect him for penning something the game didn’t have before, which is a compendium of other good guys for your players to meet.
Villains & Vigilantes had sourcebooks that were collections of NPCs before (the earliest one was Stefan Jones’s Opponents Unlimited). However as their names implied (Most Wanted, Super-Crooks and Criminals, and the aforementioned Opponents Unlimited), they were collections of bad guys. In running most kinds of RPGs where the players are larger-than-life heroes, I’ve usually found it helped to immerse them in the game’s world by showing them there were others like them. It was nice to finally see a book like this where I could just pick out a likely character to inject into a particular setting when I wanted to have an NPC superhero show up, instead of having to make up one (let alone an entire team) from scratch. I love V&V, but making working characters can be time-consuming.
As usual, those little links to other works are there. We get to see the Red Raven mentioned briefly in Danger in the Depths, and one of the solos is the sister of murderzombie Samhain from Most Wanted 1, for example.
It goes without saying that the characters included run the gamut of creativity. One hero’s sealed inside a magic ring owned by a bunch of adolescent detectives who summon him for help when they get in over their heads, which is great. The not-really team made up of users of ancient objects of power was also an interesting idea, as was the reformed hood who gets his powers by being possessed by a ghost that he sometimes argues with. Then there’s the hero who’s dedicated to protecting…Antarctica. And is completely against using force to do so. Plus, it was excessive to have three characters who used “mask” in their names: the Mask of Midnight, the Masked Matador, and Masquerade.
Overall though, this is a useful book. Some of the characters come a little close to being cheap stereotypes, the Soviet Russian team especially (I get the feeling this was another book that’d been sitting around waiting to see publication since the 80’s), but nothing approaching European Enemies levels of lameness. Plus, the simple fact that it provided an assortment of premade NPC heroes and might lead to more books like this was a nice change of pace.
As for the extras, those were pretty good too. One of them was an archvillain called Anarch, and to say he’s a force to be reckoned with is an understatement. That he’s just an intermediary for someone even worse presents interesting possibilities for epic adventures involving Anarch. I also liked some of the new powers listed in this book, especially the luck-related and self-cloning ones.
The mini-adventure packed in wasn’t too bad, with some villains I’d find it fun to use in adventures of my own. However like most short adventures, it’s too, well, short to have really anything memorable about it beyond its villains.