Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Tommy's Take on The Super Villain Handbook Deluxe Edition

As regular readers may recall, about a year and a half ago, I reviewed The Super Villain Handbook while it was being Kickstarted. I even named it as one of my Top Six. So now The Super Villain  Handbook Deluxe Edition is out, and I'm taking a look at it and its Savage Worlds conversion book.

ETHICS IN GAMING JOURNALISM DISCLAIMER: I was provided a complimentary PDF of both the ICONS Super Villain Handbook Deluxe Edition and the Savage Worlds Conversion book. Additionally, I was provided a print copy of the ICONS Super Villain Handbook Deluxe Edition. I was also a judge on the BAMFsies, which are organized by Fainting Goat Games' publisher Mike Lafferty. Finally, this review includes affiliate links for RPGNow and using those links may provide me with a portion of the sales for store credit to RPGNow, which is typically used for products that I review later.

Just The Facts: The Super Villain Handbook Deluxe Edition is 231 pages and full color, and written for ICONS. It is available in PDF for $10 and print for $20, though you can get the bundle for $20 as well. The Savage Worlds Conversion Pack is 40 pages and $5 in PDF. I was told that they are having difficulties getting the print version ready, but that it is planned.

Six Things You Should Know

1) You will want ICONS A-Z and Great Power. At least, you will want them if you are intending to use them for the ICONS version of the book. Great Power is just a great buy all on its own. I don't own ICONS A-Z, unfortunately, but "K is for Knacks", "I is for Influence" and "C is for Cosmic" are all used prominently here (and the book tells you this early on).

2) The Savage Worlds Conversion Pack is more than just stats. It would have been really easy to just convert the stat blocks to Savage Worlds stat blocks. That's not at all what you get with the Savage Worlds Conversion Pack. While each of the villains included in the Super Villain Handbook get converted stat blocks for Savage Worlds, the Conversion Pack also offers conversion rules from ICONS to Savage Worlds, as well as advice on Edges, Hindrances and other relevant character creation advice for building villains of each archetype. The Savage Worlds Conversion Pack is also specifically built off of the 2nd Edition of the Super Powers Companion.

3) More systems are coming. If ICONS or Savage Worlds doesn't do it for you, then Fate, SUPERS and Mutants & Masterminds conversion packs are coming. If the Savage Worlds Conversion Pack is any indication, it will be more than just stat blocks, but actual, relevant advice for building the archetypes in your system of choice.

4) No firm setting. Though the Handbook includes 54 characters (9 of them being heroes, meant to provide a context for some of the villainous archetypes, such as the Evil Twin), there is no firm setting here. In fact, every character in the book is in the public domain (including the characters created specifically for this book), meaning they are absolutely free for you to do with as you will. The generic archetype stat blocks from the Basic Edition are gone as well, each replaced with a fully fleshed out character as mentioned above. Now, this doesn't mean that all the information for using and building each archetype has been stripped out...not at all. It's just that each example character is no longer generic, but a specific representation of the archetype.

5) Villainous campaigns. One of the coolest additions to the Deluxe Edition is a section on running villainous campaigns which is useful again for any system. Examples include the suddenly insanely popular Suicide Mission Team, The Bait and Switch (think the original Thunderbolts), the Jailbreak, the Revenge Squad or even a World Without Heroes (as exemplified in one of my favorite campaigns of all time, Necessary Evil).

6) Not just a gaming book. I mentioned this in my Basic review: This is a really good book for any supers GM to have. I'll keep it on hand when I'm wearing my comic writer hat as well, due to how useful and extensive it is. The best parts of the book have nothing to do with any game system, and that's just good writing (see: most GURPS books). Each archetype, from the Assassin to the Devil to the Foreigner to the Kid Playing With Fire to the Psycho to the Vigilante to the Wolf in Sheep's Clothing are given an in depth and loving treatment of the elements that make each villain work, and the philosophical questions that the villain raises.

Conclusion: I loved the Basic Edition so much I named it one of my Top 6. This book tops that, expanding from 98 pages to a whopping 231 pages, written with both love and thought by Jason Tondro. I recommend it for any supers GM and anyone interested in the structure that has molded some of the finest villains in comic book history. Now if we could just get Mr. Tondro's Field Guide to Superheroes in print as well...

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