Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Tommy's Take on Zenith Comics Presents: Supervillains! vol. 1 (BASH edition)

For as much as I dig BASH, I sure don't show it enough love here on the blog. So, with that said, let's dig into a third party product for BASH: Ultimate Edition...Zenith Comics Presents: Supervillains!

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: This is a 39 page mini supplement of 11 supervillains for BASH: Ultimate Edition (ICONS and Villians & Vigilantes versions are also available). Villain sourcebooks tend to be a bit of a gimme for supers RPG publishers, because your PCs are almost always superheroes, and they always need someone to fight. All versions of the book are available at RPGnow for $1.99.

Art is provided by Anthony Green, who renders the images in a style similar to the more cartoony art of BASH: Ultimate Edition. In addition to providing villains for your game, this is a peek into the Zenith Universe, with background elements given in the backgrounds of the villains, as well as their "Known Enemies" and "Known Allies".

Each villain gets a full Marvel Handbook style write-up, complete with hair, weight, eyes, base of operations, etc. Thankfully, they opted not to provide fake "First Appearances", which frankly annoys me when I see it, so thumbs up for them. In addition to the background, each villain gets an "In Your Campaign" section, a section on "Combat Tactics", "Roleplaying Notes" and, finally, "Hooks".

Who are the eleven villains?

Adonis - The Roman God of Beauty, Adonis has - among other things - a nearly unbreakable helmet made of "Heronium". While that may sound goofy, it gets pretty cool when you find out that Heronium is made from the metal artifacts that a hero was carrying at the time of its death. I like the mythological element of the setting's Super Metal.

Black Shroud - Take a bullying victim without a strong moral compass and a demonically empowered cloak of shadows and you get Black Shroud. He might be a bigger threat if he grew a spine.

Colt - The first villain thus far who isn't afraid of a direct fight. Colt is a modern day trick-shooting cowboy, though he's not afraid to use his guns for actual killing.

Damselfly - An incredibly unstable split personality who will latch onto romantic obsessions...and will likely go on a superpowered Fatal Attraction rampage if she's rejected.

Energion - A bit like Proteus from the X-Men comics (in basic concept, not execution), with a slightly more cosmic bent.

Green Gargoyle - A bit of a "Hulk" homage, although he's not a "Hyde" to anyone's Jekyll, he's an actual animated gargoyle who just wants to be left alone.

Jackie Frost - A female, ice-powered villain who is often found in villain team-ups.

Nightviper - Think "Female Robin Gone Bad". For folks who read Red Robin, what Tim Drake could have been if he crossed that line.

Skullsmasher - A Roid Rage cautionary note.

Wolfen - Pretty much a classic werewolf.

The Bug - Zenith's answer to Mr. Mxyzptlk or The Impossible Man...and yes, I spelled Mxyzptlk right on the first try. I'm such a geek.

Lastly, the PDF includes two pages of stand-ups AND tokens, depending on which you prefer (as well as a number of "Shadows" and "Ice" tokens for Black Shroud and Jackie Frost).

WHAT WORKS: A LOT of info is given for all eleven villains, and even in cases where the inspiration was obvious, enough effort was given that it wasn't just "serial numbers filed off". The option of tokens or stand-ups, at your preference, is also great. Several of the art pieces are really good, and the worst are certainly passable.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: Easily my biggest gripe would be that each villain has three art pieces attached: A full body shot, an "action shot", and...the full body shot, reused. I do know art can be expensive, but it does bear mentioning. Also, I know what they were trying to accomplish with The Bug's entry, but I still have not read it all because the font is murder on my eyes.

CONCLUSION: $2 for 11 well-thought out villains? Sure thing. As a consumer, I'm not sure I'm in the market for a new setting, but my supers gaming choices tend to be Marvel, DC or my own setting anyway. HOWEVER, with the possible exception of Adonis' Heronium, there is very little here that would prevent you from "drag and drop" into your own game (I mean, unless you had odd, specific rules...for instance, Wolfen is a pretty standard werewolf. If you have ruled that all werewolves are pacifist treehuggers with complete control of their Inner Beast, he really won't work). A great first effort from Zenith Comics and a worthwhile selection of villains.