Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2014/06/16/tabletop-review-valiant-universe-rpg-qsr-supplemental-harbinger-wars-the-harbinger-foundation/
Wow, here we are with our fourth free Quick Start Rules preview of the Valiant Universe RPG. The previous two let you view the big Harbinger Wars event from the side of Bloodshot and Generation Zero respectively. Now we’re going to be looking at things from the point of the most powerful man in the world (both fiscally and literally) – Toyo Harada. This isn’t the first time Valiant Universe RPG fans will be able to step into the shoes of the master of the Harbinger Foundation. In the very first QSR, Unity, you could play as Harada, along with Ninjak, Livewire and the Eternal Warrior. This time however, while one person takes up the reigns as Harada, three others will be playing Eggbreakers, some of Harada’s psiot muscle. This is a really interesting choice, as Harada’s side pretty much wears the black hat from the point of view of many Valiant protagonists, even if Harada himself thinks he’s the biggest white hat on the planet. This will let players see how the other half lives, and also flesh out Harada and his lackeys into more than just two dimensional bad guys should the players ever encounter them instead of playing as them.
It’s worth noting that besides Harada, the other three playable characters are very under the radar ones. I mean, I own every issue of this run of Harbinger and I had to try really hard to remember if the other three (Stronghold, Ion, Saturn) were actually mentioned by name or even more than once in the comics. This is both good and bad. The bad is that, depending on your group, EVERYONE will want to play Harada because they know him and he’s crazy powerful. So the Lead Narrator may have to prevent some bouts of immaturity, depending on the age and makeup of the players. The good news is that the other three characters are virtually blank slates, which means you can play them however you want. You won’t get a rules-lawyer style player saying, “That’s not how they were in the comics!” because there really isn’t enough on any of them to truly flesh out their personality. It also means that for gamers who felt the previous QSRs were a bit too “on rails” since they were name characters in situations that already occurred in continuity, this adventure will be the most to their liking. Not only is part of it completely original and not ripped from the pages of four color goodness, but the parts that are from Harbinger Wars will feel very different because B or C – Level characters (and Harada) are getting the spotlight.
The Harbinger Foundation‘s adventure consists of four parts, all of which have multiple scenes (except for Part Two), which should keep your players busy for one to three sessions depending on how long and drawn out things get. Each leg of the adventure is very combat heavy rather than discussion and exploration, so the length of the adventure will depend on how comfortable you are with the mechanics provided in the QSR up to this point. Remember, you’ll need a copy of the Unity QSR to play The Harbinger Foundation as it has all the rules. It’s free as well (heck, all the QSRs for Valiant Universe RPG are free, so get them all!), so remember to pick that up and read it first to minimize any issues you might encounter.
So let’s talk the adventure proper. Part One has students either working cooperatively or against each other (choose the former as teamwork is always better than PvP) in some “Danger Room” like tasks. This is a great start, as it lets players try out their characters and powers, especially those that haven’t had much face time in the comics. It also lets the players test out some strategy, which they will need for the other three parts of the adventure.
Part Two is only one scene long, but it is a doozy. Harada and Ion Vs. Bloodshot. While this battle is going on (and it will most likely unfold differently from the comics), Stronghold and Saturn will be dealing with escapees from project Rising Spirit. It’s nice to see everyone getting to shine in this scene, while in the comics, it really was just a battle between the two big heavy hitters. When one side accomplishes their goal, the other side’s battle will finish up. Make sure your Lead Narrator can effectively run two very different sessions of combat at once, as everything does unfold at the same time.
Part Three has the Eggbreakers and Harada taking the fight directly to Project Rising Spirit, where they will do combat with the Hard C.O.R.P.S. Scene Four has Harada and his Eggbreakers trying to recruit members of Generation Zero to the Harbinger Foundation. This is a short but easy scene that mainly relies on Harada’s die rolling. If it goes good, this is a short and easy affair. If it goes bad, there is a LOT of combat. Unfortunately, there are some issues with Part Four. First up is that the writing, mechanic-wise, is a bit cloudy and I think it will confuse people who are new to gaming. Re-read the opposed roll information at least twice to make sure you know what you’re doing. Second, the text states, “Take the number generated during Scene Three in the previous Event and divide by two (rounded down); treat any result higher than five as five.” I have NO IDEA what they are talking about here. Is the previous event, the previous scene? Because there is no random number generated in Part Three, Scene Three. Did they mean the Generation Zero QSR? Because there is no number generation in that either. In fact, the only random number generation that I could find is in Part Three, Scene Two of this QSR, and it’s in regards to when P.R.S.’ automated defenses come online. So this is really a bit of jargon editorial should have caught. At least it is free, though, right? A decent Lead Narrator can also fudge through his and make it work with no one being the wiser.
So aside from Scene Four somewhat falling apart due to bad editing and writing, The Harbinger Foundation is still a top notch little adventure and a great addition to the ever growing collection of free releases for Valiant Universe RPG. I’d definitely say the game is four for four so far and come Free RPG Day 2014, I’ll definitely be trying to get my hands on a free copy of the physical version of the Quick Start Rules. You definitely should too. Valiant Universe RPG is certainly shaping up to be the best new RPG of 2014, and since everything released for it so far is free you have absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t go download all four QSRs immediately.