Publisher: Vigilance Press
Series: Vigilance: d20
Review Dated: 21st, June 2002
Reviewer’s Rating: 7/10 [ Good ]
Total Score: 7
Average Score: 7.00
Vigilance is a PDF publication that brings superheroes and the d20 system together. I think the d20 particularly suits the superhero genre, the advancement from of the level system quickly turns mundane people into elite warriors and the feats are naturally super heroic in nature. Vigilance does not rely on the d20s system natural inclination for granted and actually serves up some improvements. The armour system is changed; armour doesn’t make you harder to hit; it makes you harder to damage. In addition there’s a slightly more complex Vitality and Wound system and I think this better reflects all those comic book fight scenes.
Illustrations are few and far between in Vigilance and when you find them you’ll find traditional images of American patriotism. American patriotism never appeals very well to the international audience but it is rather the default standard in things comic book and the superhero genre so its presence here is accepted in a way it’s not yet accepted in, say, Hollywood films.
Despite the conservative amount of illustrations in Vigilance there is no shortage of colour. In a smart move the chapter titles have large red titles and the sections within are headed with blue. In fact, the fonts have clearly carefully been selected superhero feel that there’s an early credit to where the fonts have come from.
The origins chapter sets up the all-important creation of the superhero. This includes such options as playing an alien, a mutant, artificial life, mystic encounters and others. Each one comes with a set of advantages and disadvantages. These advantages and disadvantages are not anywhere as complete as they would need to be if you wanted to play a superhero who did nothing else than being an alien. You still need to go through the process of picking a class.
There is a total of six core classes: the acrobat, the brick, detective, energy protector, gadgeteer and psychic. At this point you’ll be convinced that the game mechanics in Vigilance are watertight but you’ll also start to notice less tight text. For example, you’ll get this quote from the Brick character class. “He is the character who wades into battle while others hold back. He is the first one in while others hold back.” Any slips in the writing are never frequent enough to be annoying or sloppy enough to confuse what is being said.
There’s a list of new skills – generally modern day technology and investigation techniques. There’s also a whole new range of feats. As you might expect the feats really are rather impressive, they are too mighty to be imported into a generic fantasy game but they’re not written for such. There’s a plethora of feats, 9 pages in total and an average of 6 feats per page. I think that’s a rather low density of feat per page; it’s not because Vigilance uses one of the largest (and, for that matter, most easy to read) fonts I’ve seen on a PDF but also because these feats are given a good long description.
It’s same story for super heroic powers. There are another 9 pages of them and again there is always plenty of text for each power. The powers are grouped together in generous categories; regeneration, for example, gives fast healing, the regrowth of limbs and retarded aging. I would have desperately thought of a different phrase than “retarded aging” but the meaning is clear enough.
If you’d rather play up to the angsty can’t do side of comic book heroes then you’ll probably be relieved to discover that there’s plenty of disadvantages to pick from too. Disadvantages include enemies and tragedies and complexities on your ability to wield super powers.
Vehicles and Equipment serve up a collection of; yes, you’ve guessed it, vehicles and equipment. There’s enough attention here to let you play your equipment-based superhero without too much worry. There’s also just enough in the way of rules to let you GM something of a car chase without worrying that you’re about to screw everything up. There isn’t anything in the way of alien vehicles and weapons but there are improvised weapons for when you hulking hero picks up a telephone pole and wellies into combat with it.
There are six prestige classes; the behemoth, mentor, mind master, powerhouse, secret agent and speed demon. That’s the same number of basic superhero classes. Having said that the d20 system fits nicely into the superhero model I’m not so sure about prestige classes. The idea that there’s a level above what already counts as super heroic gives me cause for concern. I think I would reserve prestige classes for those heroes without par – the Silver Surfers compared to the Wolverines.
The download finishes with some useful discussion heroism and villainy. It’s just enough to turn the product into a complete supplement and not just a collection of hero related game mechanics.
I liked Vigilance. It provides an inexpensive but effective way to turn your d20 gaming group into a bunch of super heroes. It manages to sly from the traditional fantasy genre to the comic book world of super heroes without too much effort.