Game: Time of Crisis
Publisher: Green Ronin
Series: Mutants and Masterminds
Review Dated: 13th, June 2003
Reviewer’s Rating: 7/10 [ Good ]
Total Score: 7
Average Score: 7.00
Ooo. So preeety. Time of Crisis is the eye candy we’ve come to expect (thus demand) from Green Ronin‘s Mutants & Mastermind hero line. It’s full colour. There are wonderful full-paged illustrations.
Oh, there’s a pre-written adventure for six characters at Power Level 10. We’re told we can adjust the villains’ Power Levels or add more minions from Freedom City to suit if the party of players are tougher than that. If I was going to ask for more from Time of Crisis (which I always want to call Time Crisis) then it would be for a little more in way of examples of just what level of minion to add in order to balance Power Levels. Classes and Challenge Ratings, I can do, but the Mutants & Masterminds style of d20 is still one I appreciate examples for. You don’t have to have Freedom City to use Time of Crisis, in fact, you don’t even have to have Mutants & Masterminds. The book uses most of its page space quickly describing super heroes, super villains and the generics of the plot. This is an easy book to covert into your favourite hero game. There is a catch though; there’s a cheeky little scene that won’t go according to plan if your heroes include any robots or aliens. It might still work. It’ll just be different.
Okay. Time of Crisis is a pre-written adventure. If you’re worried about plot spoilers then its time to return to the homepage. Time of Crisis is clearly divisible into several key sections and I think it would be possible to extend any or all of these into a scenario in its own right. Time of Crisis could easily become a campaign.
If you’re still here then you’re not worried about spoilers and I can safely let the cat out of the bag. The world’s doomed. It’s gone. The players can’t stop it happening; no matter how hard they try. There’s a catch, thankfully. Our heroes are saved by a powerful entity known as the Norn (Nordic myth connections are left unexplored) and told how they can undo the damage and save not only one Earth but save four of them. This will thwart the arch-villain Omega’s plans. Time of Crisis isn’t, therefore, to be used if you want to keep Omega out of your game nor can you use it if you don’t want alternate realities in your game. For most four-colour superhero games, though, Time of Crisis suits just perfectly and provides the ample opportunity to being in some one appearance wonders in terms of powerful NPCs and introduce the Omega menace directly to your players.
The game can get going in many different ways and the GM is offered help for each of them; the players might be those heroes the police call first for a super villain problem, they might be a new group who has to answer the call since the main defenders of the city are all busy (reasons – if silly – are given) or they might just happen onto the crime scene. The Thieves’ Guild is holding up a casino. They’re a bunch of PL 10 villains who’ve been hired (and being betrayed) by Omega to distract the heroes in the city while the Cosmic Bomb for this dimension is planted. Shortly after this scene, whether the characters defeat the gang or they get away (since Omega’s promised escape route never shows) the world will end. Actually, worlds will end.
Before the End of the World ™ it’s worth pausing to admire the full paged colour illustration of the Thieves’ Guild in a brawl against the sample heroes, it perfectly complements the individual illustration for each of the villains. Hero RPGs need this; it’s the stuff of comic book.
While they’re floating in a bubble of rock and air – all that remains of dimensions worth of worlds, the Norn explains to the heroes that four Cosmic Bombs were planted in four different Earths. The Norn can’t intercede directly but can (and will) send the galaxy’s last heroes (our players) back in time and to each of these Earths where they should do all they can to defuse the bombs. Here’s a nice bit. They don’t need to defuse them all; stopping just one explosion will save reality but if they wish to save the planet Earth in the dimension they’re visiting then they need to stop that bomb. There’s an extra catch. Right at the end of the scenario and when the players are trying to save their home dimension Omega himself will show up. Omega, on a bad day, will kick their collective arse with one hand tied behind his back. If the heroes use the detonator rods taken from the Cosmic Bombs to defuse them as a weapon against Omega (read: pummelling him with them) then they’ll find their super effective. It’ll be a major kudos to whichever player works that out first.
Alternate Earths are fun. In Time of Crisis we visit the most commonly occurring Alternate Earths. That’s right; there’s an Earth where the Nazis won the War, an Earth where monkeys/primates are the rulers (but where humans are virtually non existent) and one where alignment is reversed and everyone’s evil. Meh. Let’s do an Alternate Earth where cliches are living creatures that crawl down the streets or an Alternate Earth where you can become rich and famous by writing RPG reviews. That would be weird. This is just wishful thinking and we’re left with these stalwarts of the genre instead. At least the monkey superheroes are good for a laugh.
The first world visited by our heroes is the one where the Nazis rule. In many ways this is the toughest. Right from the outset the characters are over their heads in a melee against Nazi flying machines and giant, building crushing tanks. One thing that Time of Crisis is good at is offering help to the GM in order to keep the plot ticking along. Here in this world the heroes will encounter the current leader of the American resistance, Lilith, and then the currently captive but powerful resistance fighter Dr Tomorrow. If things are going badly, Lilith can find the players quickly. If things are going very badly then Lilith can free Dr Tomorrow without their aid. Time of Crisis provides the plot strands, the location of the bomb and the key characters. It’s up to the GM to weave it all together. This isn’t a bad thing, it’s certainly better than some linear dungeon crawl but there’s not enough support material for Time of Crisis to honestly claim it’s providing the framework for the scenario. Time of Crisis provides the ideas, the main gist of the plot and then bits here and there to keep you steady. It’s the only way to fit four worlds into 64 pages. I love the full paged illustration of the world in ruins and the heroes up against one of the Nazi super-villains but I miss having individual illustrations (as we had for the Thieves’ Guild) for each of them.
It’s off to the Planet of the Apes next. The team of hero apes here are good guys. They’ll not want to hurt the players but the apes are very suspicious of the humans. If that doesn’t start trouble then a key member of the Primate Patrol (the hero apes) is Dr Simian and he’s a known villain from the Freedom City setting. As it happens Dr Simian is only pretending to be a good guy here on the Planet of the Apes and this is an important plot twist. By hook or by crook, Dr Simian will hit the players with a de-evolving ray and they’ll have to fight their final fight as super-powered apes themselves. This is the scene that a robot or alien (not evolved from an ape) PC hero might thwart a little. The Norn will be able to return the heroes to their normal state at the end of the encounter. In fact, the Norn heals the heroes between every world. There’s a double paged illustration of the Primate Patrol and the speedy ape hero “Chimpanzoom” has name that’ll make any adventure memorable.
The last Earth before returning to the one called home is one where evil is the norm and good is rare. The players will have to work out who’ll they can trust and be aware of who might betray them. It’s rather audacious pulling this off right after Dr. Simian but a bit of audacity does tend to make for a good hero plot. The characters will meet NPCs from Freedom City again (or just NPCs if you’ve not been using Freedom City). In core Freedom City rules The Raven (shamelessly modelled on a male version of Catwoman) may already be a favourite anti-hero and his cameo here is likely to enforce that view. This time round the band of super villains the characters need to defeat are their evil mirror images.
After these three worlds the characters will find themselves back on Earth and outside the casino. They’ll have to work out for themselves that this means that the Cosmic Bomb here is still to detonate and therefore still needs to be defused. If they don’t work it out then the GM is reduced to having the Norn whisper warnings from afar. Finding the bomb could be tricky if the Thieves’ Guild escaped but the book has some suggestions; www.lookingforabomb.com is the memorable title for the what-if players decide to look on the internet for clues. Green Ronin should buy that domain name – and buy it yesterday. Even the fight against Omega has suggestions for the GM as what to do if things start going horribly wrong; Omega is making mincemeat out of the heroes or he’s getting his arse whupped and the final climatic battle is falling flat on its face.
Time of Crisis is full of good art and good suggestions. These handy extras are wrapped up inside the largest suggestion of them all – the scenario itself. The professional presentation of a good idea is better value for my money than yet-another linear adventure. I see nothing wrong with the approach Time of Crisis takes but this doesn’t stop me wanting more.