Game: Mutants & Masterminds Annual #1
Publisher: Green Ronin
Series: Mutants & Masterminds
Review Dated: 12th, February 2005
Reviewer’s Rating: 8/10 [ Really good ]
Total Score: 8
Average Score: 8.00
Mutants and Masterminds is a rare RPG product. It started well. There are now lots of supplements for it. Mutants and Masterminds is still going well. This review looks at the first Mutants & Masterminds Annual.
If this supplement was just a list of more heroes or a pre-set adventure then it would… well, it would be just another supplement rather than an annual. The word “Annual” implies (at least to me) that if you’re going to buy one Mutants & Masterminds addition in the year then buy this one.
In fact we get Annual type material from Annual #1. It’s a hit. For example, the last couple of pages in the book are an errata for Mutants & Masterminds. Who knew the book contained so many errors? It looked so good to me!
Street Justice is my kind of thing. Here we find the gritty bits of low powered hero games. Characters are stronger, faster and tougher than most people. Characters may well have unusual powers but at this level bullets won’t bounce off them and thugs lunging out of shadows with machetes are a threat. In Mutants & Masterminds terms this is the Power Level 5 range. This isn’t just a look at what these heroes can and cannot do but also how they can fit into Freedom City. Here we cut to the heart of the issue. It is tricky fitting all sorts of power levels into Freedom City at once. I think Street Justice could have found more time for that and cut down on the list of villains for the power level. There are nice sections in the vein of Morality and Mortality; those shades of grey which never appear in four colour comics but which I think makes the gritty hero genres so enthralling.
There’s a look at deities in “Against the Gods”. This is another stable of super hero gaming and other step away from the usual four colour theme that Mutants & Masterminds usually sticks too. In truth the Greek Pantheon are key to Freedom City and the heroes therein. It was Hades who attacked the city with his army of undead warriors which had the original heroes of the Liberty League. There’s more on that story later in Annual in the Freedom League section. In “Against the Gods” has stats for Hades. Whereas God stats always seem like mixed blessings in other roleplaying games they seem entirely appropriate here. Hades is a powerful force indeed! On the other side of the battle we’ve histories and stats for Hercules, Ulysses and Achilles. If you’re a fan of the Greek myths then the stats for Cerberus, Harrpies, the Hydra and Sirens present in the book are likely to be a useful asset.
In Legacy we look backwards so we can look forward again. This section looks at heroes of yesteryear. Here we have the hero info-dump but it does have extra weight as it is tied in with the Freedom City setting. As is typical of historic heroes a lot of these NPCs are American Second World War stars; Gunner, The Human Tank, Sarge Shrapnel, … The Mutants & Masterminds Annual does very well, at least in this European’s opinion, and there’s a wider birth of heroes from the era. Lady Celtic and Spitfire Jones are British. Better still; there are German heroes. The White Rose (Die Weisee Rose) and White Thorn (Die Weisser Dorn) are both great characters in their own right and I think are a decent summary of the wonderful way Mutants & Masterminds blends academic comic book appreciation with game play.
In terms of all-round-usefulness “The Freedom League” is right up there. This chapter, even if it is only ten or so pages long, contains a wealth of information. Here we chronicle the rise of the current heroes in Freedom City and look at the why-fors and how-comes. The “Liberty League” is a legally protected name – hence the Freedom League. As with the Legacy chapter we have a large list of hero NPCs here. As with the Legacy chapter there are overtures to elsewhere in the book. Raven, for example, a hero who once fought with the Freedom League but is now the headmaster of the Claremont Academy.
I just can’t shake the X-Men Evolution feel from The Claremont Academy. This is the college where teenage heroes learn, spawn adventures and angst or ally as the style of game play sees fit.
We’ve been dabbling in different styles of superhero game play here. There are a few more and the Annual has space to look at Freedom City in the future. Freedom City 2525 is very much an excuse to show case even more heroes and villains – with the accompanying quality illustrations – rather than a real look at what the future holds. In fact it is easy for the Annual to almost casually introduce the Freedom City 2525 setting as there can be many different possible futures. That option fits in nicely with the genre. In fact, I quite look forwarded to reading about another future for Freedom City in the next Annual!
There’s more in the Annual then just tours of sub-genres and a splash of heroes from each. There’s an extended look at Power Creation rules. The gambit runs from secondary effects to flaws and the cost variations for each.
I like the idea of weaknesses in power. Mutants & Masterminds Annual #1 has statis for Achilles so it’s perhaps appropriate it includes the Achilles’ heal for powers. In fact the book suggests suitable Achilles’ heals for superheroes in general. There are a few pages on Weaknesses. The book suggests that there should be points back for the adoption of weakness. GMs, as ever, will need to watch this closely.
There are power ups for heroes in the book too; quite a lot actually. “In Shining Armor Arrayed” covers the creation and rules for superhero suitable armour. “Superhero Smackdown!” looks at combat for supers. The usual suspects line up here; Attacks of Opportunity and Feats, for example. “The Quality of Heroes” looks at those all important but often very tricky Hero Points. In particular Annual #1 discusses new ways in which heroes can acquire Hero Points. Again, GMs will need to watch closely and ensure the system is not abused.
There is a small adventure in the annual too.
The Mutants & Masterminds Annual #1 looks and feels like a Mutants & Masterminds product. It’s slick and smooth. It’s colourful and entertaining. That said it’s not without error, the contents page is miss-aligned and page numbers don’t match chapter headings.
The Annual is a must for all Mutants & Masterminds fanatics. It’s a strong buy for all Mutant & Mastermind owners. If you’ve built your own Freedom City setting or aren’t using it at all then the Annual is much less tempting. It is the last third of the book which has the widest scope.
I really enjoyed Annual #1. It is one of those books where the pages turn themselves. I’m just slightly suspicious I won’t be able use everything from it. It’s also one of those supplements where I’m not sure whether players should be allowed to read or not.