This collection of “three plus one” brief adventures for one or two Villains & Vigilantes player-heroes hums with the classic V&V vibe. Don’t be confused by the term “solo adventures,” used on the front cover; these aren’t adventures you play without a GM, but adventures suitable for a lone superhero. If you’re interested in these as a player rather than a GM, you shouldn’t read the rest of this review, as spoilers lie ahead!
The first adventure, “No Crime Like the Present,” is the least satisfying of the three. One encounter (plus aftermath) constitutes the whole adventure. The city planetarium makes a wonderful set-piece for the adventure, and the scenario includes some fun and memorable non-powered NPCs. However, the main villain’s name, Miz Happ, features a pun that falls a bit flat when you’re speaking instead of reading; more importantly, Miz Happ’s motivation is left vague, and seems to be simple greed, in which case her target seems ridiculously mis-chosen (how is she going to fence stolen meteorites)?
The second scenario, “Survival of the Fittest,” transpires mainly on a golf course. It introduces two super-powered NPCs who could become regular guests in an ongoing campaign. I particularly like Contender’s shtick (a super-powered protection racket), and Ilk provides a great link into the V&V adventure “Escape from the Micro-Universe.”
The third adventure, “True Believer,” features another interesting villain, Pioneer, although his shtick is different from Contender’s. The scenario believably brings together two or three villains that otherwise wouldn’t likely be involved in the same fight. Before you use “True Believer” and “Survival of the Fittest” in the same campaign, however, decide carefully whether you want to include multiple instances of “apparent heroes who are really villains.” The player-heroes might get too suspicious to trust any truly heroic NPCs.
I don’t quite understand the names of the adventures. The planetarium heist in “No Crime Like the Present” seems to have nothing to do with time; “Survival of the Fittest” could perhaps apply generically to any fight, and the confrontation is potentially lethal, I guess; and “True Believer” doesn’t have any kind of religious overtones or even “(dis)believable” illusions in it. What’s up with that? Also, some of the villains seem to have come out of a random generator, which is classic V&V but comes off feeling odd. The villain write-ups leave a lot of unanswered questions. The most nagging of these surround the villain Scrimmage, in “True Believer”; he has a devitalization ray that is never really explained, either in his origin or in terms of special effects, or even how he projects it. Some GMs will enjoy filling in these blanks; personally, I’d rather have more information provided in the adventure itself.
The fourth, brief encounter introduces yet another useful NPC, a photojournalist with insidious powers of his own. He could make a great recurring antagonist for the player-heroes in an ongoing campaign.
Overall, I generally like these scenarios, and this format. The single-encounter or mini-adventure format provides a great vehicle for introducing interesting villains and NPCs, much better than a simple roster book like Most Wanted. James Bishop’s black-and-white interior artwork and color figure flats are reasonably good, though not up to Jeff Dee quality. In the end, Always Outnumbered isn’t quite a must-have, but it’s a very good resource for a V&V gamemaster running games for one or two player-heroes, and the scenarios are easily adapted to other superhero game systems (just restat the villains and you’re good to go).