Tabletop Review: Valiant Universe RPG Quick Start Rules: Free RPG Day 2014

Valiant Universe RPG Quick Start Rules: Free RPG Day 2014
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
Cost: Free
Page Count: 24
Release Date: 06/21/2014
Obtained At: The Compleat Strategist

At first glance you’re probably thinking, “Alex, haven’t you already reviewed the core Valiant Universe RPG Quick Start Rules?” Well, yes and no. I did review the ORIGINAL Quick Start Rules, featuring the characters from Unity back in early May, but this is actually a completely separate release. For Free RPG Day 2014, the gang over at Catalyst Game Labs has made the first (but still free) physical release for their upcoming Valiant Universe RPG. This version features the same quick start rules as Unity, but features a brand new adventure as well as characters that haven’t been released for the game up until now. Because the theme for the supplemental free PDFs have revolved around last year’s big Harbinger Wars event, it’s no surprise that the Free RPG Day release does the same thing. Most importantly, this version finally lets you play as the Renegades from Harbinger, which I’m sure big time fans of Valiant has been chomping at the bit for. Alas, you’ll have to wait for the paid version to get Archer & Armstrong or Quantum & Woody.

Now, if you already have the original electronic version of the Quick Start Rules, you’ll find that they are EXACTLY the same in this physical copy. As I spent a long time talking about rules and mechanics in the Unity version of the QSR, I won’t repeat myself here. Go read that original review for in-depth coverage. If you’re brand new to my Valiant Universe RPG reviews, know that the Cue System plays like a MUCH better version of the Cortex system by Margaret Weis Productions mixed with Savage Worlds. It’s a really fun system that is easy to understand and very welcoming to younger, casual and newer gamers alike. This is important because for many Valiant fans, this will be their first tabletop RPG, and you don’t want to run them off with extremely complicated rules or gigantic rulebooks that constantly cross reference themselves. Like all the Valiant Universe RPG releases so far, the rules are truncated and simplified from what we will see in the final core rulebook, so it’s not as if you’re getting the full release here or that the core rulebook will be mostly filler. What’s here is just to make it easy for everyone to slip right into a fast and friendly version of what Valiant Universe RPG will be like.

So let’s talk what’s new about this release – Renegades! The four playable characters in this adventure are Sting (Peter Stanchek), Zephyr (Faith), Torque and Flamingo (Charlene). Yes, this is set before… very recent events in the comics which I won’t spoil, but suffice to say, the dead Renegade is still alive and active at this point in the Valiant Universe (even if I could go into a long spiel about how that was the worst choice to kill out of the five). Now, some gamers might notice Kris is not one of the core player characters for this, even though she is one of the members of the team. I can’t speak for why this is, but it is probably because she’s the only Renegade without any powers. She’s just a normal human being. At least she is given an NPC character sheet like the antagonists. She is, however, missing anything for powers, which is odd, as they could have given her something, like how Faith has d8 in Pop Culture Knowledge. Kris is the brains and the most resourceful member of the Renegades, so I feel she should have something to represent that. Ah well, at least if one of your friends wants to play her, or your have a group of five people that want to play the game (all the Valiant Universe RPG adventures have been for exactly four characters so far), Kris is still playable, but the QSR does recommend the Lead Narrator play her as an important NPC.

As for the core four Renegade PCs… they just seem odd to me. So far, the game has done a decent job of matching up characters to their powers, but everyone seems really off with this set. Peter, aka Sting (who is missing his superhero name on his character sheet), doesn’t feel at all like someone who could go toe to toe with Toyo Harada. His Action die should be at least a d8 or d10, and his powers are either lower than they should be or are missing from his character sheet. Examples of being too low are his telepathy, which is only a d8 (he’s either the #1 or #2 telepath in the Valiant world) and his levitation is only d6, even though he can pick up a lot of people, including his whole team, with his Telekinesis – a power completely missing from his character sheet by the way. His weapon based powers are a bit weak too. In all, Peter is really underpowered here, but hey, it’s a Quick Start freebie. I won’t complain unless this is the same character sheet he has in the final product, which I’m sure MANY people will be having a fit over. Take note there CGL.

The other characters are off, but not as bad as Peter. Faith has a d10 in optimism, which is odd. She has two joke powers which could have been used for something else. Maybe something to reflect how good she is at rallying the team and lightening spirits. Morale Boost or something. She also has a d8 in Might, which seems overpowered. Her core stats are three d8s and a d6, while poor Sting has three d6s and a d8. Anyone with cursory knowledge of the characters knows Faith should not have more overall potential that Peter. She’s a wonderful character, but no. Torque is just odd because his Might die is D10, but his Super Strength is d8. You’d think they’d be the same. He also has “Fist” twice under weapons. Why this is duplicated, I don’t know, but it’s exactly the same stats twice. Flamingo seems pretty accurate, although I’m not sure why she has Pyrokinesis at d8 with Weapon in parenthesis, but then under weapons her two flame based attacks are d4 and d6. You would think they’d be d8 to correlate properly with her core power. Having them a step or two lower will definite raise some rules-lawyering or debate amongst players. Overall, this is the first time I’ve seen a real red flag come up for the Valiant Universe RPG game, and it’s too bad it’s happened with the Free RPG Day 2014 physical release. The characters feel really off stats and/or power-wise, and that’s not a good thing so close to the core rulebooks release. In any case, the character sheets here really don’t reflect the Renegades very well in my opinion, and I really hope the final core rulebook gets them right. For now, let’s be optimistic and chalk it up to QSR simplified character sheets instead of assuming whoever made these didn’t really pay attention to the characters or the Harbinger comics. I promise you, the previous QSRs have been a LOT better in this regard.

Now for the adventure. It’s a pretty straight forward piece that actually starts before Harbinger Wars itself. There are four parts to the adventure, each with three scenes. This means if you and your group do a lot more talking than fighting, this will take several sessions to complete, which is nice. Scene 1 takes place when the team first meets Torque and unlocks his powers. The Renegades will have to deal with an immediate onslaught from Project Rising Spirit (P.R.S.). Scene 2 brings us firmly into Harbinger Wars, where the team will come up with tactics to deal with the approaching Bloodshot and a full on fight with him. Scene 3 is a continuation of the fight with Bloodshot, but now some of his psiot allies come into play. To make matters worse, the U.S. Government sends in some troops, making this a four way instead of a three way confrontation. Finally, Scene 4 has the Renegades deal with some generic Eggbreakers from the Harbinger Foundation, along with some generic members of Hard C.O.R.P.S. It’s a decent enough adventure and it sticks pretty closely to comic canon and continuity, so fans of Valiant that are new gamers can feel comfortable playing something somewhat familiar to them. It’s not going to go down exactly like the comics, obviously, especially since the Harbinger and Hard C.O.R.P.S side of things are purposefully generic in this adventure, but it’s well done and should make Valiant fans happy with what is here.

Overall, I’m okay with the Free RPG Day release for Valiant Universe RPG. it’s great to finally have a physical copy of the game, and the Renegades were the side of Harbinger Wars I most wanted to see out of all the planned Valiant Universe RPG QSR releases. I am pretty disappointed in the character sheets/stats for the Renegades though, and I do think this is the weakest offering for the game so far, but it’s not enough to make me reconsider rabidly recommending the game or my eventual purchase of the core rulebook when it becomes available. Could CGL have done better? Sure. They already have, several times, with the PDF QSR releases. This is still a fine little piece though, and while it’s not the crown jewel of this year’s Free RPG Day releases, it’s still one I’m happy to have picked up and have had fun with.

If you missed out on getting this Valiant Universe RPG Quick Start Rules set, don’t worry! CGL has planned for an electronic version to be distributed for free in early July. It won’t be the same as having a dead tree copy, but if you’ve been getting all the other PDF QSR releases for the game, you’ll still be happy to have a full set of pieces for the game. Hurrah!

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