Game: Modern Heroes: Martial Avengers
Publisher: Malladin’s Gate
Series: D20 Modern
Review Dated: 15th, April 2004
Reviewer’s Rating: 8/10 [ Really good ]
Total Score: 8
Average Score: 8.00
It looks like a movie poster.
“Modern Heroes: Martial Avengers. MALLADIN’S GATE PRESS presents a D20 MODERN supplement, a NIGEL MCCLELLAND production.”
The front cover is bound to get your attention with the giant letters, flames and action posed silhouettes.
This from the same Malladin’s Press who tease us with the gritty DarkLore fantasy setting and the balanced mechanics of Forgotten Heroes; aah, okay, a Heroes shtick.
Let’s see what else this supplement offers. Just for a teaser – Christopher Shy artwork. Ooh. Interesting! I’ll always associate his style with the surreal Whispering Vault and alt-real Ronin fantasy products.
Let’s get to the point. This is a D20 Modern supplement for Strong and Fast Heroes. So it is like the Forgotten Heroes line after all; just the Modern equivalent of the fantasy forerunner. This isn’t a bad thing. This means that Modern Heroes has a lot to live up to.
Martial Avengers gets going with a note on the theme. Ace. I wish more supplements did this! Malladin’s Gate are upfront with how D20 Modern impressed them and that they’re putting Fast and Strong heroes together in this supplement because they are thematically similar. Hmm. Well. They can be thematically similar. Fast and Strong heroes are thematically similar if you’re eying up an action-cum-martial-art game. So I suppose we’re still full steam ahead for Martial Avengers then.
These two hero classes are, I think, less thematically similar if we’re doing a Fighter Pilot based game, superheroes or, say, a game set around London’s nightclubs and criminal gangs. Again Malladin’s Gate are upfront about this. We’re looking at a supplement for a high action game.
Chapter One gets going with new talent trees. This area is so ripe for supplements that I’m amazed we don’t have a wash of them on the market yet.
I could always do with talent tree suggestions. Whereas I doubt you know many D20 gamers gagging for more fantasy prestige classes! In the talent trees, we have Athletics (which moves on to cover throwing), Bellow (shouting, I kid you not), Combat Techniques (guess what that’s interested in) and the Winning Effort trees for Strong Heroes.
We’ve Accuracy and Combat Techniques for the Fast Hero, along with Lightening Reactions and Stealthy Attack. Okay; some of these trees are fairly obvious – but Malladin’s Gate got there first. Kudos.
There are even Prestige Talent Trees for those characters who make the class combinations. According to the guy’s at Malladin’s Gate Strong and Charismatic Heroes are sexy and therefore can enjoy the Allure tree. There’s a bunch of new starting occupations too. Once again – good stuff and frightfully under catered to by the industry.
Chapter Two is all about Skills. Skills are more important in D20 Modern; well, in many D20 Modern games anyway. I’m rarely won over by “New Uses For Old Skills” style sections and this one is a meh offering to. I don’t consider it a waste of space. I just didn’t need it. It will help some gamers, though; I suppose, maybe, meh.
Then there are the Combat Technique Skills and these are much better (though I’m no combat-wombat). Malladin’s Gate are really good at this, good at blending current game mechanics together to create easy but effective changes. Here’s a quote from the opening paragraph in Combat Technique Skills.
“Please note that these skills are available to all characters, but only as cross-class skills. When you select the Combat technique talent you choose one style, this skill can then be developed as a class skill for any levels of the class with which the talent was chosen.”
Makes it pretty clear, doesn’t it? Interesting use of the talent too. The Combat Technique Skills are rather like more thoroughly detailed feats.
They have got a primary attribute (since they’re actually skills), entry feats, weapon restrictions, primary weapons and skill synergies. The moves within techniques have their own DCs and Benefits.
The Combat Technique Skills make up a significant chunk of Modern Heroes: Martial Avengers. The section isn’t overbearing and is one of the main selling points the book will have for many people.
Then there are the feats. Hah! We have got a whole bunch of feats – I suspect Knife Fighter will be popular. There are enough new feats to be thankful for the concise, one page, summary.
As with the Combat Technique Skills, but to a lesser extent, the feats take up a fair few pages, aren’t overbearing and will be a reason many people buy this action-orientated product.
Modern Heroes: Martial Avengers is all about the fast-paced, cinematic, action. It’s about Fast and Strong Heroes after all. There is a Combat Chapter. It talks about combat type things. Dice rolls to make in different situations. What saving throws to make and when. It’s not the sort of chapter I linger on at all!
However, I did feel the supplement had properly built up to this point; we’ve had Combat Technique Skills, talent trees and the new feats. Now was the time to see how they might come together. I found the “Avoiding Death” section quite useful!
There are Advanced Character Classes in D20 Modern and “thanks” to supplements from Wizards of the Coast there are Prestige Classes too. Yeah. I know. Makes things… um, interesting.
It must be a constant challenge to third party publishers to decide when a class is “just” advanced or when it’s prestigious. This supplement is concentrating on action type characters, especially the aforementioned hero classes.
D20 Modern is all about multi-classing heroes to get them to the point where interesting specialisations can take place (in Advanced Classes and then Prestige Classes later) and so Modern Heroes: Martial Avengers doesn’t shy away from putting in those “action-themed classes” which would require a couple of levels in the Dedicated, Smart, Charismatic or Tough classes into the mix.
In the fantasy d20 world, I always prefer my Prestige Classes to be 10 levels long – I think you need that to make a meal out of them, which is a requirement if you want to make them a significant part of character development, which is how I feel they should be.
In this supplement, all the Advanced Classes are 10 levels long and the Prestige Classes are 5 levels long. That works for me.
People will ask so here’s a quick rundown of the advanced and prestige classes. Orientated towards the Strong Hero; Pro-Wrestler, Street Brawler and One Man Army (prestige), Athlete (with Fast Hero multi-classing), Shotgun Joe (with Tough Hero multi-classing), Exemplary Hero (with Smart Hero multi-classing), Street Cop (with Dedicated Hero multi-classing), All American (with Charismatic Hero multi-classing; and a tough pill for Malladin’s Gate British authors to swallow) and the Cruiserweight (Prestige Class and with Fast Hero multi-classing).
Then, for the Fast Hero, there are the Assassing, Racing Driver, Shadowblade (prestige), Lightning Fist (with Strong Hero multi-classing), Stuntdriver (with Tough Hero multi-classing), Vigilante (with Smart Hero multi-classing), Transporter (with Dedicated Hero multi-classing), Ace Pilot (with Charismatic Hero multi-classing) and Two-Gun Killer (prestige and with Strong Hero multi-classing).
If you’ve been following the bracketed comments then you’ll see that that balances out fairly.
It’s taken quite a whack of space just to list all the Advanced and Prestige Classes – it takes much more space to detail the classes.
Just to recap on the space watch; we’ve spent most pages on talent trees, Combat Technique Skills, feats and Advanced Classes. I’ve complained in the past when supplements are dominated by this sort of thing but there’s no complaint from me here.
Modern Heroes: Martial Avengers is on topic. This is a supplement about the character classes and what you can do with them to enhance the action aspect of the game.
Chapter Six looks at the “Extreme” Campaign Setting. Here we consider such fine points in action-based adventures as faceless henchmen, gangs and the more serious villains in the world. This campaign model simply sets up a world where adventures quickly become very much in the vein of an action movie.
That rather brings us back in a full circle. Modern Heroes: Martial Avengers has cinematic supplement crawled all over. If there was an advert for it then it would have to have the dulcet tones of “Voiceover Man” big up the drama before getting on to the explosions and car chases. Well. Um.
Except there isn’t really anything for car chases and explosions in this supplement. Martial Avengers is very much the martial side of the conflict; melee combat primarily, although many of the new classes are gun-bunny by nature.
It would be better to have our Voiceover Man introduce a Van Damme movie; there you go; Strong and Fast.
It’s a good supplement. It does what it says on the tin. Need to inject some action into your game? Use Modern Heroes: Martial Avengers. Looking to widen the range for Fast and Strong Heroes? Use Modern Heroes: Martial Avengers … and just hope that Malladin’s Gate comes up with supplements to support the other classes quickly!
What do you think? Measured observations are welcome and you can leave them in the comment section below.