Sunday, June 10, 2018

Tommy's Take on Vigilantes: Rise of the Powerless

Let's do a quick Savage Worlds review. Anyone in?

This is Vigilantes: Rise of the Powerless by Tricky Troll Games, a Savage Worlds Setting Kit, about normal folks who are sick of the crap and rising up to make a difference in the world.
TRUTH IN GAMING JOURNALISM DISCLAIMER: The author and publisher, Nathan Carmen, is friends with me on Facebook. We've chatted a few times. No comp copy was provided. Bought this with hard earned money when it was on sale last month. The link to the product includes an affiliate link. Purchases made with that link will likely net me store credit that I'll use to buy on cool gaming crap later. Or gas money. Things are a little tight right now.

JUST THE FACTS: The PDF is $4 on RPGnow. See the link above. Total page count, with covers, is 24 pages. This is lean. Art is black and white, and small character pieces, nothing full page here. Layout is two columns, so it's trying to make use of it's small space. No index or table of contents, but it's a small PDF and it is searchable.

WHAT'S THE DEAL: So the gimmick is that it's about an organization of folks called The Nightstalkers who said "screw it" and are fighting back in a world where the government is corrupt, the police and the criminals are indistinguishable and there's no one to fight back. They operate in small groups (coincidentally about the size of your average gaming group), but the Nightstalkers are a larger organization, essentially operating like a network of terrorist cells. The Nightstalkers keep secret identities, of course, because no one needs the cops finding them or their families. (It's worth noting here that the art is really lacking in face masks of any time, with only a couple of examples of people actually hiding their identities. In the age of facial recognition, most of these guys would be identified and hunted in no time).

Some Nightstalkers believe in Punisher-level violence, some stop at Batman-level, but all are looking out for the innocents in the's just that the whole world, media/government/criminal world are all stacked against them.

Character creation is standard Savage Worlds stuff. This is not a Supers Companion book: These guys have no powers. But you do need the Savage Worlds rules to play. Everyone is Human, and thanks to the Born a Hero Setting Rule, vigilantes can take any Edge that qualify for, Rank be damned. Fittingly, Blood & Guts is also used (letting you reroll damage rolls). Two new neat Setting Rules are added, which basically (but not quite) give the Deadlands version of Martial Arts for free, meaning vigilantes are never considered unarmed, and Extras never get a Gang Up bonus against the Vigilantes. Watch out for a Wild Card who is wading in with his thugs to get a cheap shot in, though.

New Professional Edges include Street Punk (for a Streetwise boost), Ninja (for sneaking and climbing) and Theatrical Hero (for those guys who use theatrics to strike fear into the hearts of the cowardly and superstitious). New Hindrances are Deep Dark Secret, Tough Guy (which means you have a hard time expressing emotions) and No Costume (which means you're probably constantly on the run from the authorities). Speaking of costumes: You can use them to modify your Intimidation rolls - so long as you spend some money on them and don't look like a bad cosplayer. (Disclaimer: That was not a knock on cosplayers, just on bad cosplayers.)

A handful of archetypes (like Martial Artist, Ex-Con and Wannabe Hero) are included that can be used as a guide for NPCs, can be completed for ready made characters, or can just be used as inspiration for PCs.

A list of enemy gangs and organizations are included, from the Jakals (a biker gang), The Shadowhand (who have a vibe not unlike The Hand) and Rogue Nightstalkers (who probably all started off well-meaning and decided the whole world needed to be burned in order to be saved).

There is a random adventure generator, which I love, as you know if you've ever read the blog. And as is customary, I'm pulling out a d6 and rolling up an adventure RIGHT NOW:

Mission - Kill
Location - Streets (this seems dangerous)
Main Enemy - Jackals
Climax - Dramatic Task

So the vigilantes have to kill a  Jackal leader in what turns into a running street battle with lots of innocents at risk. The problem? As the dying Jackal leader is bleeding turns out he's got bombs set up on a deadman's switch set to go off when he dies, so it becomes a rush against time to defuse the deadman's switch before a city block (and the vigilantes) are killed.

A rogue's gallery includes enemies (named and generic) and allies. "Good Guy" statblocks include the leaders of the Nightstalkers - Black Blade, Premonition and Vindicator, as well as common citizens. Bad guys include the leader of Catalyst Industries, James Stone, and his body guards, corrupt cops (including the police chief), The Jakals (and their leaders Aaron and Gabriel Gray), a generic statblock for a Rogue Nightstalker as well as a named enemy (Inferno), and The Shadowhand and their mysterious leader Lady Shadow, as well as The Street Reavers.

THE GOOD: I love the premise. I love how much stuff is packed into a tiny book. The Setting Rules are both completely obvious and completely inspired. The inclusion of a random adventure generator is always welcome.

THE BAD: The adventure generator seems a little anemic. Four steps with six options per step. On the other hand, it's not a complicated genre, either. All the art of guys without masks for a setting in which not having a mask is tantamount to suicide is questionable and makes the wrong impression. The book is confused over whether the biker gang is called "The Jackals" or "The Jakals", as it is used interchangeably throughout.

THE SKINNY: I dig this product. I think the art choices could have been better for the setting, and I'd sure like to know if it's "Jackals" or "Jakals", but the good completely outweighs the bad. I'd happily run this for a short campaign (10 or so sessions). Heck, you could probably get a minicampaign out of each enemy faction (and then dump a full government strike force on them after they take the war to the cops). Cool stuff in a small package, with that underground "do it yourself" vibe that's pretty reminiscent of a lot of the great OSR stuff that's come out over the last few years. I bought it. I don't regret it. I'd run it, and happily.