Really, resurrecting Elvis so that he can turn his fans into mindless slaves is such an obvious idea that most people will wonder why they didn't have it first. Yet, that honor goes to Michael Satran in his newest adventure, King of the Mountain for HERO System 6th Edition. This adventure, geared towards groups of up to six 450-550 point characters, continues Michael's string of well-written, well-thought-out, and, oftentimes, extremely funny HERO adventure books.
Coming in at a weighty 146 pages, King of the Mountain has absolutely everything you need to play the adventure except players, pencils and dice. Included in the book is a five act campaign, adventure seeds for each act, NPC write ups, maps, conversion notes, and other little touches that make this a fantastic book.
In some ways, the five acts in the campaign are fairly standard for a super hero adventure. Things begin with a mystery and the action slowly builds along the way. The motif of a riddle-asking mysterious villain is employed in the game, though it is done effectively and leads to players not knowing the real bad guy is until a few mini-bosses are taken down. These are solid hero gaming plot devices, but by themselves they wouldn't distinguish King of the Mountain.
The best part of King of the Mountain is the details. It's the notes that accompany each of the riddles. It's the fact that the game opens up at an Elvis impersonator convention that happens to be filled with interesting characters like an alien humanoid and a Big Corporation CEO who players might think is the evil mastermind...until they find out he's just an Elvis fan.
And that's just the first act, which ends in an attack by Yo-Yo and his robot Elvises (modeled after his various movies and include Military Elvis, Cowboy Elvis, Gospel Elvis, etc.). In the second, the party is whisked across the country to Graceland where they must try to stop the evil (but not as evil as the big bad guy's evil) Dr. Void. In Part Three and Four, there's more travel with the party heading to New Orleans and Las Vegas (respectively) where more mini-bosses await. The final act takes place in Arizona where nothing less than the fate of the world, and resurrected Elvis, is at stake in a battle with the powerful and magically gifted mummy Lorenzo Vitale-Seveigny.
Through it all, the book supplies a lot of detail without making the game feel like a giant info dump. There are NPC write ups which the GM can use, but they do not have to. There is a section on porting the game to other HERO settings (including a very thoughtful brief on how to play this game in the Champions Universe) which are concise and easy to understand.
Few details escape notice, in particular the number of adventures and stories that can spawn from even the quickest run through of the adventure. Like Michael's other books, all of the locations and many of the NPCs list potential seeds for continuing storylines. In a long campaign, the players could latch on to any of those seeds and end up turning one adventure into twenty or more sessions (though the GM would need to prep some of those additional settings.)
Even more importantly, this adventure book doesn't leave the players and GM hanging. Immediately after Lorenzo is (hopefully) beaten, the players will undoubtedly have found something during the course of the adventure they would like to continue pursuing, whether that's find Dr. Void, talk with the corporate CEO or take up Elvis impersonating.
Oh, and if that weren't enough, there are also adventure seeds should the players lose and Lorenzo is able to resurrect Elvis. (Hint: it's not pretty. Lorenzo Vitale-Seveigny is a bad dude.)
Of course, no book is perfect, including King of the Mountain. One issue that has seems to plague many of Micheal's books is the production values. While the game does feature some art for major NPCs and the maps, the images of humans could be cleaned up and made either more lifelike or more overtly super heroic. Plus, given how much detail is in the book, having a few more illustrations or things to break up the text might improve the overall user-friendliness of the book.
Still, if you want a great adventure and not just eye candy, take a look at King of the Mountain. If you play HERO games, there is a lot packed into those 146 pages. If you don't like the HERO System, but play any type of super hero games, King of the Mountain has a lot of ideas to mine or directly port over to another system. Plus, even if you don't like super hero games, if you're a GM looking for ways to structure your campaign, the book is worth checking out for Michael's attention to detail and the way he structures his campaign.
Chris Perrin is a food author, blogger, and game designer. Check out his game Mecha at MechaRPG.com. He was provided a copy of the game for review purposes.