Supers are a genre I’m a big fan of, if the fact that it had two spots in the Vote up a d20 Modern Setting post (even if it lost…) didn’t clue you in. While I only tangentially follow the big name storylines from DC and Marvel, but I follow plenty of comics blogs, am a huge fan of Atop the Fourth Wall, and love certain less “mainstream” comics (even if many of them are non-supers comics such as Fables and Star Wars: Republic). But I digress…today’s review is about Blood and Vigilance, a superpowers sourcebook for d20 Modern from RPGObjects.
…Shush, Scotsperson, I can hear you muttering “RPGObjects fangirl” back there again!
Heroes are Made, Born, and Trained
The backbone of B&V…other than the superpowers, obviously…is the Origins system. Augmenting occupations, Origins are hero backgrounds that dictate the amount of spendable Power Points (more on that later) that a character can have, as well as specific extras such as a +2 bonus to a specific ability or the ability to select specific superpowers that will always be class powers. You have characters born out of intense training with Advanced Training (Batman and Daredevil would be some prime examples), the self-explanatory Alien (such as Superman and the Martian Manhunter), clone or robotic origin through Artificial Life (such as Red Tornado), the also self-explanatory Cybernetic Enhancement (such as…well…Cyborg), the also also self-explanatory Mutant (just pick a member of the X-Men), and the once again self-explanatory Scientific Experiment (the Fantastic Four would be an example). There are also two Origins that really need to be explained in further detail to understand.
Freak Accident: “Perhaps you were doused in toxic waste, which was then hit by lightning; or an injection of an experimental serum combined with a near-death experience as villains, wanting the serum for themselves, riddle your body with bullets; or any of a number of other possible circumstances,” the description states. These are probably references to some obscure hero origin, but I can’t for the life of me figure out what they are. The entire point of the Freak Accident Origin is that it’s a game of chance vs. playing it safe. You can choose to get a +2 bonus to one ability score of your choice, or you can get a +4 bonus…but to a random ability score. Similarly, in addition to being able to get 12 Power Points at first level and 3 every level afterward, you have the option of rolling on a 4d6 at first level instead; thus, you could either get more or less power points than average by rolling up the dice. This occupation is interesting in that it’s all about luck and could create either a low- or high-powered super just by the determining factor of the die.
Jinx: Jinxes are the mutant’s mutants, gifted with the ultimate power of suck. They only get their 12 starting-level Power Points, and don’t gain an ability score bonus or the 3 extra Power Points. In exchange, they get jinx contacts as they level up and can spend up to 8 of their 12 available Power Points in a single power right off the bat (instead of merely 3 points higher than their class level, 4 in the case of a first-level character). This means that jinxes are limited as far as what they can do, but excel at using what they have.
These are just two examples of the variability of the handful of occupations given. They are all unique in that they have a bit of give and take to each of them, from the Mutant Origin granting 4 extra Power Points than normal (16 PP) at first level in exchange for not being able to learn a first-level Power Stunt (more on those later as well) as a reflection of their wild manifestations at early levels to the Advanced Training’s meager list of available powers (a grand total of 3 powers are available for an AT character) in exchange for being immune to abilities that drain or nullify superpowers. I like the Origin system, but unfortunately, there aren’t that many origins available, even with the add-on title Blood and Vigilance: Mystic Arts (but that’s a story for Part 3 4 another review).
Supers With Class
Okay, so you’ve picked your Origin…now what? Well, picking a base class seems rather obvious. Like with skills, each base and advanced class has its own “class powers”, with all the other powers being “cross-class powers”; in other words, it’s the skill system under a different name, but that’s not something I’d hold against the creators. Indeed, I think it’s a rather ingenious way to introduce powers to the system without making people who are used to non-supered d20 Modern utterly confused. I won’t go into huge detail about the base classes, but their powers are what you’d expect: Strong Heroes get powers related to physical prowess and melee combat, Tough Heroes get your various “Brick Wall” and healer powers, Fast Heroes get your ranged combat and movement powers, etc. Similarly, advanced classes have class powers that fit with their overall niche. As a rather nice bonus, the writers of Blood and Vigilance provided class powers for not only the advanced classes from the d20 Modern Core Rulebook, but for some of the classes from other books in the “Blood and” series (specifically, the Badass Barroom Brawler, Contemplative Master, and Martial Arts Master from the Blood and Fists series, and the military classes from Blood and Guts). The only sad point is that they didn’t include any of the advanced classes from the other official d20 Modern rulebooks such as Urban Arcana or cover all of the advanced classes from other RPGObjects books they cited…but that’s just me being a completionist. Hell, I’m tempted to figure out the class powers for d20 Future and Modern Player’s Companion books in my (admittedly meager and fleeting) spare time as a little treat for this blog.
Of course, while they may list powers for old advanced classes, the Rule of d20 Supplementals dictates that there will be new advanced classes as well; fortunately, Blood and Vigilance doesn’t disappoint on that front. All of the advanced classes presented fill in a niche that wasn’t quite present in standard d20 Modern but are big parts of the supers genre: we have the Acrobat for mobile Advanced Training heroes such as Daredevil or Robin (or even dextrous supers like Spider-Man), the Brick for our ultimate powerhouses such as Captain Marvel or Superman, Energy Projector for all of your “blasters” and energy manipulators such as the various Lanterns (Green or otherwise) and Cyborg, Gangster (more for non-supers such as the Kingpin and Tobias Whale, but they’re given listed class powers for super-gangsters as a plus), the Mastermind for all your would-be scheming supervillains such as Dr. Doom or Lex Luthor, the Mentor for your Charles Xaviers, the Psychic (also technically for your Charles Xaviers, I guess), and the Speed Demon such as the Flash and (appropriately) Speed Demon/the Whizzer. All of these are especially interesting in that they have a handful of talent trees like d20 Modern base classes rather than set advanced class traits like…well…nearly every other advanced class out there, making them even more suitable for archetype molding. Most other archetypes are covered by either the base and/or advanced classes combined with the powers system (such as using a powered Smart Hero/Techie for suited heroes such as Iron Man or John Henry Irons) or by the Origins. Most other archetypes (I.E., the mystical ones) are covered in B&V: Mystic Arts…all except one. The shapeshifter archetype, from Mr. Fantastic’s rubbery stretching to Beast Boy’s animal forms, is not represented beyond having their powers present. Why do the shapeshifters get no advanced class to augment their abilities? But I digress…
Feats of Fancy
There are also new feats, of course. While most of these are either reprints of feats from other “Blood and” titles (such as the Henchmen, Home Turf, and Teamwork feats) or advanced class powers as feats (such as Animal Companions), none of them are a waste of space, as they all fit into one facet of the super archetypes or another. The most useful feats, however, are the ones tied to powers. Want to use your Brick to throw your allies into combat like a missile? There is actually a feat for that, Fastball. There are more feats later on in the book, but those will have to wait for…
…Part 2, which will delve head-first into the Powers chapter of the book, looking at each and every power! Crazy? Perhaps. But it must be done!