Free RPG Day Review #1
The inaugural Free RPG Day was held on Saturday June 23rd in the USA and Saturday 21st July in the UK. Its aim was to bring gamers and potential customers into their local games store by making available a number of free mini supplements kindly provided by the publishers. Each is intended to introduce and showcase a particular RPG or range of supplements, either already available or forthcoming. The purpose here is to review as many of the following as possible in a series of mini-reviews, taking into consideration how well each stands on its own, how good each serves as an introduction or prequel to another fuller product, how well it stands up as Free RPG Day product, and just how good it is in general.
I have access to the following items, for which I would like to thank Roj at Wayland's Forge:
- GamesMastery Module D0: Hollow's Last Hope
- DCC #51.5: The Sinister Secret of Whiterock
- Wicked Fantasy Module #0: Temple of Blood
- Tunnels & Trolls Quick-Start Rules
- Mutants & Masterminds Beginner's Guide: Quick-Start
- Castles & Crusades Fantasy Role Playing Game Quick Start Rules
- Dungeonbattle Brooklyn for Xcrawl
- Changling: the Lost -- Free Rules and Adventure
- Little Boy Lost for In Dark Alleys
- Call of Cthulhu Quickstart Rules
- The Pig, the Witch and her Lover -- Free Adventure for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay
- Flashpak for Cyberpunk 3.0*
- The Rifter #38*
- Return to the Tomb of the Five Corners*
- GURPS Lite Fourth Edition*
- Scion: the Hero*
These do not constitute the full list of items available on Free RPG Day. There were some items that I was not able to get hold of and there cannot offer a full review.
* To be fair although I have a copy of The Rifter which was given away on the day, both time and personal prejudice will probably prevent me from giving a fair review. I declined a copy of the Flashpak for Cyberpunk 3.0 as I did not think that I could do a fair review of it following the extemely unfavourable review I had to give Cyberpunk 3.0 elsewhere. Similarly, Return to the Tomb of the Five Corners, GURPS Lite Fourth Edition, and Scion: the Hero have been covered elsewhere in detail, though all do a decent job of introducing their respective games.
Although not specifically designed for the day, the Mutants & Masterminds Beginner's Guide: Quick-Start was made available on Free RPG Day in the UK. It is designed to introduce the prospective player to one of the hobby's best superhero RPGs and certainly the best superhero RPG to be derived from the d20 System, Green Ronin Publishing’s Mutants & Masterminds. It does this through programmed learning, taking a single hero to be as he enrols in the Claremont Academy and faces challenges and tests in the school's Doom Room.
As befitting a Mutants & Masterminds supplement, this a great looking booklet, being in full colour throughout, and is illustrated with not only a selection of full colour artwork drawn from the game line, but also a five-page comic that charts the progress of the supplement's hero, Nathan Scott a.k.a. Firepower. At 32 pages long, this is the double the length of the many booklets made available on Free RPG Day, but this gives room to allow a well written, easily understood explanation of the Mutants & Masterminds rules. These are slick and play fast, taking the reader step-by-step through the game system up to facing a simple solo challenge in the Doom Room, "Into the Doom Room," before teaming up with Claremont Academy's own team of superheroes, Next Gen. To do this, the booklet provides the full stats for five members of Next Gen, enabling a GM to run a session with six players, "Super-School Slugfest!". With all six ready to go in the Doom Room, this second challenge can be run in typical roleplaying fashion (just in everyone's imagination) without a map or markers, but the Mutants & Masterminds Beginner's Guide: Quick-Start prints a map of the Doom Room and a set of counters for the members of the Next Gen and the dangers they will face. However run, both GM and players are ready to go on to the full game itself after playing through the two encounters.
Although the Mutants & Masterminds Beginner's Guide: Quick-Start booklet is designed to introduce the game system itself, it actually leads into a particular supplement, the forthcoming Hero High. This details not only how to run a campaign in which the superheroes and the superhero team consist of teenagers, but also a specific team, the already mentioned Next Gen, whose membership is made up of students at Claremont Academy. This establishment is the equivalent to Charles Xavier's School for the Gifted in Mutants & Masterminds’ default setting of Freedom City, and the members of Next Gen, the equivalent of the line up in classic X-Men, or more probably The New Mutants or The Teen Titans. That said, this lead in to Hero High is not obvious and you need to know that the book is coming out to be aware of it as the supplement is not mentioned in the books listed at the back of this booklet.
If there is a problem with the Mutants & Masterminds Beginner's Guide: Quick-Start booklet, it is that it is too self-contained. What you get is good, but it would have been nice to have one more adventure or some adventure ideas that take the game if not outside of Claremont Academy, then definitely outside of the Doom Room. Perhaps have the members of Next Gen face a supervillain of some kind, essentially a challenge that can be role-played by the GM rather than just the almost automated threat presented here. This would have been worth a slight increase in the booklet's page count and thus in its price.
This though, is really only a minor gripe with what is a well together, focused booklet. The Mutants & Masterminds Beginner's Guide: Quick-Start should prove more than enough to give a prospective player a taste of the game and rules to be found in the Mutants & Masterminds full rulebook. For the prospective GM it is equally as good bar the small complaint already made.
Highs: Bright, colourful, and cheery, easy to read and everything is well explained.
Lows: It could have one step further and taken the heroes out of Claremont Academy.
Overall: A very nicely put together booklet that is a more than serviceable introduction to Mutants & Masterminds.
For Free RPG Day: This costs $7.95 and I get it for free? Woohoo!! No, really, this is exactly what Free RPG Day needs -- it's bright, it’s cheerful, and it's not Dungeons & Dragons.