Silver Age Sentinels
Silver Age Sentinels Capsule Review by Funksaw on 03/09/02
Style: 3 (Average)
Substance: 4 (Meaty)
It’s the General Purpose Vehicle of Superhero gaming, and it’s guaranteed to be a strong workhorse at my gaming table.
Product: Silver Age Sentinels
Author: Stephen Kenson, Mark C. MacKinnon, Jeff Mackintosh, Jesse Scoble
Company/Publisher: Guardians Of Order, Inc.
Line: Silver Age Sentinels
Page count: 335
Year published: 2002
Comp copy?: no
Capsule Review by Funksaw on 03/09/02
Genre tags: Superhero Generic
“Spandex Fallacy Law: All superhero games have rules that intrinsically suck.” – Jason Sartin, Critical Miss, Issue 7.
There is little to add that has not been covered in other reviews of Silver Age Sentinels– the review by Samurai on the book is quite exhaustive and I really don’t think I could improve on it if I could do a rundown.
That said, what follows is mostly pure opinion, to avoid treading the same ground.
Silver Age Sentinels, in my opinion, breaks no new ground, is not innovative, brings nothing fresh or exiting to the Superheroes RPG genre, and, in every way, shape, and form, is about as original as the old joke about Lois Lane’s inability to figure out that Clark minus spectacles equals Superman.
Screw it, I love it anyway. Why? It’s main feature is a nearly-complete lack of flaws. Although it tries nothing fancy, what it does accomplish is create a superheroes game notably lacking any game play imperfections, any confusing or contradictory rules, or any difficulties. It’s the General Purpose Vehicle of Superhero gaming, and it’s guaranteed to be a strong workhorse at my gaming table.
Of course, with no flashy features, the game itself would suffer from a lack of appeal if the game wasn’t modular. For the most part, it is. Due to “Unique Attribute” and “Unique Defect” rules, as well as a point-buy per level power system, the game itself could be used for a number of different genres. Of course, the further from “Supers” the game is, the harder it would be to convert – “Pulp” would require almost no conversion, “Cyberpunk” would require some heavy conversion, and “Fantasy” would require a much more detailed conversion. I don’t doubt for a minute, however, that such endeavors are within the realm of the creative GM.
Initially, I had reservations about it’s purchase. At $45/$40, the book is neither cheap, nor an impulse purchase. In the end, I only agreed to purchase it when the FLGS owner offered to lower the price to $37. It’s purchase price, however, proved to be it’s only stumbling block, as I quickly realized what I could do with the system. Though the setting emphasizes the Silver Age, many of the comic types – from Action Comics #1 to “Unbreakable” are easily simulated in the game’s mechanics by adjusting the point cost and die type.
In that, Silver Age Sentinels meets it’s intended goal of producing a superheroes game that is “scalable and easy to learn.” Although the introduction makes mention that “fans of the superhero genre didn’t want to play angst-ridden, corrupted, battle-wear, tainted, morally deficient, jaded or flawed characters in capes and masks” – which is exactly the type of superhero game I want to play – the ruleset finds no difficulty in doing so.
For a game with a single system and single setting, the game seems almost overly eager to please gamers migrating from other systems and worlds. There are several charts defining what powers listed in other systems are listed as in SAS – right off the bat, I could find “Insubstantial” from Champions under “Mass Decrease” and “Cyberkinesis” from Aberrant under “Computer Scanning.” What does this mean, practically? First off, conversions are a snap. If, say, you were a fan of the Aberrant or Champions setting and wished to use the SAS system for it to replace the “house” systems of those settings, this is almost a painless process, even when converting existing characters over from long-running games.
As for the default setting of SAS, well, the characters are intriguing, and although the setting doesn’t appeal to me personally, it is fleshed out in appropriate detail. It matters little – the game provides detailed guides on creating your own world, or adapting one of the major “comic universes” to your campaign. And, amazingly, this game addresses the changing landscape of the Gaming world, by producing sources on Internet Gaming, as well as Convention gaming.
Restating that, SAS is a general purpose superhero game first and foremost, this book is neither for everyone – nor should it be. Gamers who prefer rules-heavy supers games should choose Champions or a similar game. Gamers who want a darker setting should choose Godlike or Aberrant – both can be readily converted (although honestly, I think Godlike’s gritty feel is partially tied into it’s, also superb, system.)
In conclusion, I can’t say that the price is worth an impulse purchase, but if you are quite seriously in the market for a Superhero RPG, SAS is certainly a new leader in one of the most overlooked RPG genres.