Spirit of the Season
offers readers a collection of holiday themed (Christmas and Chanukah) heroes and villains for use with either Spirit of the Century
or Truth & Justice
. I had the opportunity to use Spirit of the Season
for a night of holiday adventure with a group of friends and the final verdict is that this one is a winner. The pregenerated characters were very fun to play, the villains were villainous and easy to use, the jokes were funny, and the number of pulp opportunities and excellent plot hooks presented in the write-ups, text, powers, and everything else resulted in a cheerful rampage against the forces of evil. Sound like a good time? Read on!
The Good: Player characters have a lot of fun stuff going on and the write-ups make them easy to play. Villains are appropriately villainous while still retaining touches of humor. If the GM can come up with some simple plots then the product easily assists the group in creating their own holiday adventures with a minimum of work.
The Bad: Three pages of ads, two pages for creating your own holiday ornaments, and dual statting may result in a more limited amount of content for some folk than they might otherwise expect, but there’s still quite a bit here.
The Physical Thing
A digest sized 72 page black and white softcover, Spirit of the Season
is well edited, showcases cute and appropriate artwork, and is generally well formatted for play. The one and only gripe I have with the book, and it’s very minor, is that I wish I could print off character sheet and character background together on just one side of a piece of paper. In play I just printed off the stats themselves, some of which would also have character background on them, and offered folk the book to read if they wanted to become more familiar with their characters. The good news is that the character sheets for both games already paint a good picture of the characters and what they’re about, and players don’t really need to know or do anything else. You’re Reindeer Men (and Women) and there’s a holiday to save!
Under the Cover
The spirit of giving surrounds itself with charitable heroes who aid in bringing cheer to the world around them. The spirit is, of course, Nick Saint and his allies are the Reindeer Men (and Women). Imagine taking classic holiday tales, such as Santa and his Reindeer, and giving them a pulp spin (and injecting a little bit of Batman into the Reindeer). Players can take on the role of Nick Saint himself (with his amazing Rocket Sled!) or any one of the Reindeer which cover a huge variety of pulp character archetypes.
In my game the players played a female version of Donner (because he has a gun that fires rockets), Rudolph (who happens to be a teenage Chinese-American martial artist), and Blitzen (the mad scientist, complete with his airship The Silent Knight). Character selection went fast as each player quickly found something on the character sheet that interested them, and throughout the course of play the character sheets were an excellent resource for new ideas and general inspiration. I blame the well done Aspects in large part, but the Gadgets and Stunts and such also provided players with a lot of fun opportunities throughout the game.
Chanukah characters are here as well, and the players certainly could have chosen from three equally well done Chanukah heroes. In addition to downright fun looking characters like Judah Hammerstein, new Mysteries and Empathy stunts are included to allow for new abilities. They’re well done, though Mysteries may be a tad too powerful for some groups since it can do a seemingly limitless number of effects. New rules for using Companions are also included.
It was the villains, five in number, that really helped me most. I grabbed two villains – the sinister Baroness Blackheart and greedy Doctor Scrooge – and wrote up a simple pulp adventure outline with both villains. Baroness Blackheart was the controlling villain, with Scrooge as her patsy, and the ultimate plot involved the Baroness contracting Scrooge to bring her a magical crystal to finish her device that will increase the size of the sun thereby eliminating joyous emotions forever due to the intense and unrelenting heat. It also, of course, would prevent anyone from having a white Christmas.
The game started off with the Reindeer on summer vacation from their duties at a remote island paradise – a paradise owned by none other than Doctor Scrooge. Upon identifying the characters Scrooge sent his ninja lackies – the Cratchets – to kill them in their sleep, but our quick thinking heroes responded with due force and kicked ninja butt all the way into the hall. Several fights, a giant fire, and some ninja battling later Scrooge is escaping the island in his air plane and the characters are in hot pursuit thanks to The Silent Knight.
A Himalayan journey later, the characters are battling aircraft, befriending yeti, and raiding the Baroness’ secret Himalayan fortress which turns out to really be an ancient mystical cave built as a bridge between the hollow Earth and our world. Recovering the last piece of her insidious magical device in the underworld, the brave heroes ventured far below the surface where they dealt with angry natives, dinosaurs, and the Baroness herself in an epic battle.
Using Scrooge and the Baroness was very easy, and the Baroness proved to be an excellent villain for a big epic encounter thanks to her magic and technology (and the inclusion of a few Mecha-Cratchet henchmen). The players, thanks to both their own ideas and the suggestions hidden in Aspects and Gadgets and such, were very inventive in overcoming the battles and puzzles placed in their way, and on the whole a great time was had by all. Only one of the three players had ever played Spirit of the Century before, and I think it’s a credit to the character write-ups that everyone was able to so easily understand the game and their characters.
Of final note, while I did not have an opportunity to playtest the Truth & Justice rules they look solid to me. I have no doubt that the adventure would have gone as smoothly and been just as much fun with the same creative heroes and villains using that ruleset as Spirit of the Century.
I had a hell of a good time playing this, and I have every intention to run it for future holidays. The heroes and villains are well designed and are fun in play, and the game easily runs itself in whatever direction you want to take it. There’s no need to memorize events or quote passages or anything else – just take the characters and run with them. My only parting thought is that while the print version is cute, this is definitely a product where having a PDF to print out sections of is extremely useful. If you’re a fan of Spirit of the Century
or Truth & Justice
and want a clever holiday adventure then Spirit of the Season
can’t be beat!