Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2014/06/03/tabletop-review-valiant-universe-rpg-qsr-supplemental-harbinger-wars-generation-zero/
As promised, Catalyst Game Labs has been releasing free Quick Start Rules for their upcoming Valiant Universe RPG on a clockwork basis. Timeliness is a rare thing in the tabletop industry, but CGL has made it three for three so far, which is pretty impressive. This third PDF continues the trend of looking at the Harbinger Wars event from last year. However, this time the PDF puts you and your friends in the role of Generation Zero – who really hasn’t seen much attention since Harbinger Wars, save for Monica Jim, who was hanging with the Renegades over in Harbinger. Of course, all that is about to change with Armor Hunters, as they’re getting their own mini-series for the event! This means the Harbinger Wars: Generation Zero QSR is perfect for both curious tabletop gamers and longtime Valiant fans, as it gives you a timely chance to reacquaint yourself with characters who are going to get the limelight thrust on them very shortly.
Like the Bloodshot QSR supplement, the Generation Zero PDF does not contain the rules for playing Valiant Universe RPG – this is JUST the adventure and character sheets. If you want to play the game, you also need to download the Unity Quick Start Rules, as everything needed to play a game is in that PDF. Don’t worry – it’s free too. In fact, by this point you should have three free PDFs for Valiant Universe RPG (almost seventy pages of content), and CGL still isn’t done yet. It’s insanely awesome how much free content being given away for this game. Aside from Wizards of the Coast’s upcoming free release of Basic Dungeons & Dragons, this is the most free content I’ve seen released for a game ever. Anyway, make sure you definitely have the Unity QSR, because otherwise this PDF will just be something to read.
The Generation Zero PDF lets you play as four of the characters: The Telic, Little Castle, Animalia and Chronus. There are other members of the team, but they are not provided here statwise, either as PCs or NPCs. It’s also worth noting that previous PDFs contained fairly straightforward powers like Harada’s psychic blast or Bloodshot’s ability to regenerate. In this PDF we get some more esoteric abilities, like Chronus having D8 in leadership and Tactics or Tellic having d10 in Pattern Recognition. It will be interesting to see how players decide these powers will be used. Of course, the full core rulebook will define these for us, but in the meantime, less direct abilities like these and how they work will have to be determined by individual groups. For us, we had Chronus be able to give his Leadership die to an ally and his Tactics die to an enemy instead of the die they would normally roll. Tellic’s Pattern Recognition became the ability to declare what an antagonist was going to do on their next turn. Now, that doesn’t mean your game will use these powers the same way – it’s just how they played out for us. I’m very interested to see the different ways these abilities are used in everyone’s games and whether or not the core rulebook really will lock down powers with tighter definitions.
The adventure in this QSR is pretty different from previous ones. It cuts around a lot in Valiant continuity and even changes it a bit. For example, there’s no Bloodshot to be had in the escape from project Rising Spirit, and he’s the core reason that even happened. This is actually a good thing, because it shows CGL and Valiant are fine with not sticking to the canon script and letting PCs make their own Valiant Universe, and it also lets the adventure be streamlined and focused on the PCs. If Bloodshot was here as an NPC, he’d overshadow the PCs, and if he was playable, everyone would want to be him instead of a G0 kid simply because, well, he’s Bloodshot! This change in storyline really lets the focus be on the Generation Zero kids, which is where it needs to be.
There are four parts to the adventure, each with multiple scenes. Part one is the false promise of escape from Project Rising Spirit. Part two is the real thing. Depending how good your team is (remember everyone takes a turn at Narrating in Valiant Universe RPG), these events might seem a little too repetitive, so absolutely be willing to mix things up and keep them from being a straight dungeon crawl hack and slash type affair. Part three has the Generation Zero team taking over a Las Vegas casino and then defending it from covert ops and psion teams. Part four pits them against some generic Hard C.O.R.P.S. members and ends via an encounter with Toyo Harada… whose stats are not in this packet.
Overall, the Generation Zero QSR is well done, but I think it is the one gamers and Valiant fans will find the least interesting of the three so far. This is mainly because the characters aren’t as well known or defined as the “A-List” characters we’ve seen so far, and because the adventure is mostly running and fighting, but hey – it’s a super hero RPG, right? It’s obviously not going to be as “talky” as Call of Cthulhu or World of Darkness games. I do think it was smart of CGL to highlight some lesser known characters, so that potential purchasers of the final Valiant Universe RPG product won’t feel like they have to play the big guns. The more unusual powers for these character will also either really intrigue or disappoint players, based on how creative they get with their potential usage. So while the Generation Zero QSR still has me personally excited for the eventual full release of Valiant Universe RPG, I think that this one isn’t going to be what some people are looking for. Still, it’s free and it’s definitely worth getting. Just remember that this one is going to play out different from the Unity and Bloodshot releases, so go in expecting some notable differences rather than something more formulaic.