Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Tommy's Take on Resolute Supers 2nd Edition

Resolute Supers 2nd Edition is an interesting small-press game supers released by Michael T. Desing and Teddy Bear Press, clocking in at a whopping 17 pages (yes, seventeen) and going for $2 at RPGnow.com.  It's not exactly a “rules lite” RPG...it's really seventeen pages jammed pretty full of material.  The format is a fully searchable PDF with three text columns in landscape format per page.  There isn't very much art, which may be a good thing as 1) there's very little filler and 2) honestly, the art isn't very good.  It's cartoony but not in a good or evocative way (especially as the setting doesn't feel very cartoony).

The setting reminds me a bit of Pinnacle's Necessary Evil, both of which are Supers vs Aliens settings, although Necessary Evil is pretty explicitly supervillains versus aliens.  The book opens with a 15 year timeline of the world, from the arrival of the alien Emissary who unlocked superpowered potential in people in preparation for the arrival of the Messari – a race of alien conquerors.  The timeline is painted in broad strokes, focusing on the two attempted invasions by the Messari and the world's reactions to them, before bringing us to the “now”, where the world is preparing for the likelihood of a third invasion.

The mechanics are simple enough: You roll 2d6 and add your relevant Ability to it.  Everything in the game is rated from -1 to +13 and applied as a modifier.  Successes are rated as as multiples if the resisting score (i.e. if the resisting ability is +5, then one success is 5-9, two successes is 10-14, etc).  It's probably not the MOST intuitive, but I bet it'd only take a couple of sessions to get used to.  If there is no active ability resisting an action, apply a “static 7” as the difficulty.  The writing clarity wasn't the best here, as in the examples in the final paragraph I didn't catch that the static 7 was being applied until I stopped and did the math.

The bulk of character generation is on page three, and is a level-based point buy (not wholly unlike power levels in Mutants & Masterminds).  Norms are built on 0-9 points, while super powerful movers and shakers clock in at 100+ points with several levels in between.  Once the point level is set, the players pick one of the factions (which include government operative hero types, mutants thinking the end is near, pariahs living on the fringes of society and outsiders who just don't fit anywhere else).  Pick your name and purpose, then spend your points.  There is no separation between ability scores and powers...they are all just Abilities.  A handy chart along the bottom of the page helps with the bean counting.  You can also “focus” abilities, boosting it's effectiveness in one area while diminishing its effectiveness in all other areas (the example listed in the book is the Science Ability, specializing in a field at the expense of the other uses).

The next three pages are filled with Abilities, which cover a lot of ground and should provide ample inspiration if you want to do something that isn't covered.  Abilities cover pretty much everything in the game, from contacts to skills to superpowers...everything is covered under one unified mechanic.  There's even an Omni-Power that has examples covering trick archers, magic and Green Lantern-ish light powers.

You can take limitations that provide extra bonus points, which should be kicked in about once a session.  Advancement is handled with Hero Points, which you get for doing good deeds and can either be cashed in for Character Points or Fate Points.

Fate Points let you recover wounds, boost die rolls (adding an additional 2D to the roll) and take extra turns in the middle of a combat round.  In additional to gaining Fate Points by trading in Hero Points, you get your level in Fate Points at the beginning of each issue.  This is kind of an odd change from supers games, as mechanics like these are usually used to balance, say, Captain America and Thor or Batman and Superman.  However, in Resolute this is going to make your powerful beings more powerful. It's not a huge problem in and of itself, but it definitely isn't going to accommodate, say, Plastic Man and Green Lantern teaming up.

Group Points are gained by a team to purchase things like group vehicles, with promises of rules for bases coming in the future.

Combat takes up another three pages.  Initiative is 2D versus a static number of 5, each success granting a turn in each round.  In addition, each round has a Preparation phase, which grants you chance to take on free action that isn't an attack, before moving into the Resolution phase where everyone gets to take their turns in order starting from the highest rolls on down.  One sidebar covers found weapons, such as the Thing tearing out a light pole and using it, which gives a bonus to damage while degrading with every use.

Ability Synergy rules are simple guidelines for using different abilities to supplement certain actions, like using Flame Control to set your fist on fire before punching someone, or combining Speed and Fighting to charge opponents.   You can fight into negative wounds, at which point you have to start rolling Stamina to keep from passing out.  Mook rules are present, allowing heroes to mow through legions of faceless baddies.  The rule is simple: You can attack a number of mooks equal to the rating of the ability you're using.  With Energy Projection +6, you can blast six mooks at once.  The caveat is that you cannot attack mooks AND named foes at the same time...one or the other.

Gang up rules are included (to give mooks a chance), as well as a list of special situations...you know the stuff: falling, fighting in the dark.

A nice optional rule is “Exchanging Wounds”, which lets you trade wounds for bonus effects if you hit for 2 or more wounds.  Some options include disarming foes, stunning foes, knocking foes back or trying to force foes to draw their attentions on you (very useful if you're trying to defend an innocent bystander targeted by a deranged killer, or drawing a villain away from a downed comrade).  The chapter ends with a sample her, The Emissary, the very being that started it all.

The next chapter is the GM section, which starts with some bog standard GM advice that you've read in most RPGs to this point.  It then gets into more specific advice, such as noting that heroes cannot repeat a failed action against a static resistance in the same scene, as well as tips on using degrees of success when heroes are performing actions.

The GM section provides four methods for die rolls, from rolling everything to rolling only active dice (all resistances use Static 7), to Only Players Roll to Mix-and-Match, such as players rolling against mooks, but archvillains getting active dice on their actions and so on.

Finally, most helpfully, the author includes guidelines for balancing encounters, which can be very helpful at least at first, so you don't accidentally wipe out your party.

This is probably the least impressive section of the book, honestly...like I said, a lot of this is stuff you've read in every other GM section...but things like the encounter balancing are very nice and useful.

Chapter 7 is a one page guide to adventures on the earth, complete with a decent random roll adventure generator that you can use in a pinch.

The first two appendices fit on one page, the first being stat blocks for common mooks, and animals, as  well as four supers archetypes.  The second appendix is a handful of vehicles that you can use as is, or as guidelines for making more.

The book ends with an introductory adventure that starts with the PCs waking up in a lab with no memory about how they got there, and ends with a couple of options depending on where the players and GM may want to take it.  Pretty basic stuff, but a decent launching point, especially if you have nothing better in mind.

CONCLUSION

It's 17 pages for $2 and not a lot of filler.  The GM section had some extraneous material that could have been removed, especially for a couple of more examples.  The adventure isn't anything special, either...but there is a full game packed into these 17 pages, with a surprising amount of options.

The first supplement, a 9 page Referee's Guide is already out (I'll likely be covering this soon as well) selling for $1 at RPGnow, and is the model for the company ($1-$2 products, text heavy, jammed with material).

There's a pretty cool game in here, with some very nice options.  A couple of parts should be clearer, but the author is working on a document to clarify some points, and there is plenty of room to expand the game world, expand on the aliens (who are largely untouched in the main book, due to the fact that people are anticipating the third invasion, not in the middle of one).

Very good stuff...good bang for the buck.  Check it out.