The game, like other SURVIVE THIS!! titles, is a built on old school D&D rules and new school innovations and sensibilities. The game includes the classic six attributes, along with a seventh, SURVIVAL. This attribute can be spent to re-roll a failed attempt on a dice roll one time. Characters also start with more hit dice that a typical OSR character. These tweaks make it easier to survive, which is nice considering the lethality of old school gaming. Characters have six saving throws that they will need to roll under or tie during game play. They are courage, critical, death, magic, mental, and poison. There are a few interesting charts associated with them. My favorite is the Death saving throws' Out of Action chart. If you're reduced below 1 HP , you are taken out of action, unconscious, and roll on a d6 to see if there are other effects. Note, you only actually die on a 6. Again, this makes the game less lethal than its OSR brethren. The game uses the classic Law and Chaos alignment system.
One of the new optional rules for Vigilante City is the Vigilante Points system. Characters start with a value of 0 and this number can be raised or lower depending on their actions. Their vigilante score can provide some great penalties or bonuses, depending on the characters' reputations. Another great option during character creation is the Vigilante Origin tables. Sure you can come up with your own, but you can also roll randomly (which will give you some interesting bonuses). There's also a starting money chart, which provides additional character traits (such as skill bonuses or additional starting languages).
As mentioned earlier a majority of the book is taken up by class information. The classes are divided into two groups, human and megahuman. The classes allow you to play gritty street-level non-powered or take it to the next level and play low level supers (though trust me they can be quite powerful at high levels). While the human classes are rather balanced, that's kind of thrown at the window a bit with the megahumans. This emulates the genre well though. Hawkeye and Black Widow are on the same power level, but while they can hold their own for awhile, aren't at the same level as Iron Man.
Here are the 15 human classes with a brief description/overview:
- Archer - expert marksmen with tricked out arrows
- Athlete - gifted physical specimen that chooses to use their abilities for the betterment of others
- Crime Fighter - individuals drawn to upholding the law and protecting their community, they believe no one is above the law and gain bonuses against foes aligned with chaos
- Dark Avenger - these extreme heroes seek to punish criminals and their brutal ways strike fear into their foes
- Gadgeteer - these heroes fight crime with tech and intelligence, they have gadgets that help them in their crusade that they are able to upgrade as they gain experience, the gadgets in the book are armor, big gun, boots, ear piece, gloves, and goggles
- Genius - related to the gadgeteer thematically, the genius is a master tactician that can outwit foes
- Hard Boiled Detective - These vigilantes are experts at investigation and can hold their own in a fight
- Knight Nurse - vigilante combat medics, while they might not be as good at fighting as some others, they can keep you alive on the streets... this class also has the best name in the game
- Martial Artist - These masters of hand to hand combat come in all styles and from all fighting disciplines, they can gain slight superhuman abilities, such as adding elemental damage to their attacks
- Mentor - while these heroes may be too old for this shit... they still help younger leaders and can serve as trainers, tutors, and weapon masters for other vigilantes.
- Mercenary - these former soldiers know how to fight and are trained in combat tactics
- Protege - these young heroes have a desire to be vigilantes and a willingness to learn, they have really useful support abilities that help their allies
- Sharpshooter - these ranged weapon experts come in three varieties: gunslingers, bombardiers, and and snipers
- Street Preachers - these holy men and women come in three varies, sin-fighting crusaders, inspirational evangelists, and spiritual healers dispensing mercy
- True Vigilante - deciding to go "full vigilante," these crusaders for just use Chaos to fight crime, fighting fire with controlled fire
There are 8 megahuman classes. They are:
- Antropomorph - humans and animals that have mutated into human/animal hybrids. Their animal appearence and make-up varies and are determined based on two charts, this class is definitely a spiritual successor to Palladium's TMNT and Other Strangeness rpg
- Borg - these heroes are part human, part robot, as they level they can choose body and weapon upgrades
- Mutant - these are the catch all supers, you can create a HUGE variety of characters with this class. You abilities are determined randomly on a few charts (though some game masters may allow players to pick two or three they want), they can be further mutated through gameplay and can earn some interesting bonuses and penalties.
- Mystic - masters of the arcane, they have invisible rune tattoos that let them tap into the supernatural arts
- Powered Armor Pilot - these characters are humans that are essentially piloting a small mobile tank, they can upgrade their armor as they increase in level.
- Psion - these are masters of the psionic, they have a primary power they can upgrade and gain others, there are 17 different upgradable powers to choose from
- Super Soldier - these vigilantes uses various drugs to augment their form and aid them. Some of these boosts are permanent, others are temporary
- Super Speedster - hyper quick (and the rarest) of megahumans, these powered individuals have their own origin chart
The classes are followed by the skills section. Some classes allow characters to just select from all the skills while others (among the megahuman) classes have skill packages that determine skills and give other other abilities. This is nice because it lets the classes differentiate themselves, so you can have a party of anthropomorph turtles, but each can have it's own niche to fill.
The game has a very simple XP & Leveling system that it shares with other SURVIVE THIS!! games. It only takes up two pages, but covers both combat and rp heavy games.
Given that gadgets and equipment are so important to supers and vigilantes, there is quite a bit of info in this section of the book. There are pages of armor, weapons, special arrows, utility belt info, and other equipment. While the chapter can't cover everything, if covers enough to give you detailed guidelines for vigilante resources.
There are some great rules for vehicle and chase rules. These allow you to handle most situations and seems versatile, yet simple.
The book ends with the Playing the Game section. These 20 or so pages fill in the blanks on how to actually put all of the previously mentioned goodness to use. If you play OSR games, most of this will seem familiar, but there's some new stuff here that separates Vigilante City from other games. There are several critical hit/failure charts and a random name chart.
If you can't tell from my large collection of Vigilante City posts, I LOVE this game. The art and layout is phenomenal. Runehammer really knocked it out of the park. His unique style gives this that great BTAS Bruce Tim feel. There isn't a bad piece of art in the book.
The game itself is old school and (overall) rules light enough for my taste, but provides so much variation. Another great t hing about this game that I didn't really touch on is it's modular nature. Don't want superpowers in your game, don't include megahumans. While everything works together, you don't have to include it all in your game to have a fun campaign. If you're going to play in a Vigilante City game, you should definitely pick this up. It has everything you need. If you're going to run a Vigilante City game, you should also pick up the Villians guide, which I'll review later this week.
If you're into supers games, this is definitely one to check out. Buy it. You won't regret it.
Gear up! Your city needs you!