Superteam Handbook Review

Back today with a look at the newest supplement for Mutants & Masterminds, the Superteam Handbook. This book sets you up to play a team of heroes all working together, which technically is something that could be done with the base game. This book, though, purports to set you up with everything you need to have an awesome superteam.

Team Basics

This book starts off strong with an awesome discussion of superteams generally. I didn’t expect the History of Superteams in Comics section to be that interesting, but it’s a cool narrative that really gets you interested in making a superteam. From the X-Men and the Fantastic Four to the Justice League and the Legends of Tomorrow there are tons of different teams out there to emulate. It’s a little intimidating to envision pulling something like that together and the first chapter of this book sets you up for that.

Image © Green Ronin Publishing

You can start with why your team came together, their Coming Together story to go along with the individual origin stories of each hero. It might be just working for the common good or against a common enemy, or it might be something less selfless like working off a community service/debt or getting paid to “hero” as a day job. On the other hand, you might be a family or have a shared origin or you might have united principles (like a cultural or socioeconomic mission) or you might have pooled resources (like a giant tower in New York, hypothetically). All of these topics are covered with the advantages to the heroes and the concessions they make, prompting you with plot ideas and campaign frameworks.

Other concerns for creating a campaign based on a superteam include the power level (or levels) of the heroes on the team, shared backgrounds vs. open casting calls, codes of conduct, working as a team in and out of action, and complications/problems that can plague a team. There are also generators for team themes and team names, though they don’t work entirely flawlessly.

One part that I really love involves using a mega-team with dozens of heroes in it. This is normally a rough prospect when you have a gaming group of just a few people but if each of those people makes three or four heroes and you keep switching out who’s in and who’s benched then you’ve got a huge team. You can even do something like Star Trek Adventures‘ supporting characters: heroes who are minor members of the team who you can call up when needed and whoever wants to play them can take them on for a single scene or a single mission.

Image © Green Ronin Publishing

Building Your Team

While the first chapter focuses on some dense narrative material for your game, the second chapter is concerned with the mechanics in all different ways. There is a discussion on using niches to make sure each character can shine (claiming your skill or ability that you’re going to be the best at in your group), team templates to tie all your team members together, and tactical roles and concept roles to combine for a unique team member (what to play up and what to skip over).

Between that and a discussion of all the skills and advantages (including some new advantages) it seems pretty straightforward to make team members that all feel different. Combine the Hotshot and Flex roles and you’ve got a show-off who can shift to do what the team needs, while combining the Hotshot and Transport roles gives you a show-off who gets the team where they need to go. The advice on specific powers and the examples given with teams in mind are imminently useful and ready to go in your superteam campaign. There’s even a section on team vehicles and team installations to set up your home base, as well as team moves for those one-two attacks.

Image © Green Ronin Publishing

Team Lineups

Chapter 3 of the Superteam Handbook has a host of example teams to draw inspiration from. They have a profile with a team logo, power level, and a team template. The writeups include prewritten members, resources, past adventures, famous opponents (from the Gamemaster’s Guide, Threat Report, and Rogues Gallery), suggestions for new adversaries, and a sidebar with friends, foes, mentors, and nemeses.

Image © Green Ronin Publishing

The teams listed in the book are as follows…

  • UNIQUE: The United Nations Internation Quorum of Unaligned Exceptionals are the superpolicing team of UNISON (the more well-known UN team on Earth-Prime). This is definitely a mega-team with only a few members provided but that international roster includes Advocat (a French mind-controller), Blackberry (an Iranian sorceress), El Rayo (a Mexican cyborg), Epiphany (an American powerhouse), Hearth (a living starship engine found at the Arctic Circle), and Matron (a centuries-old immortal from Africa).
  • Project Freedom: Is a Suicide-Squad-style team of criminals given a second chance. The roster includes 9th Airborne (a powersuited former PMC), Fortress America (a hero who cracked and was taken down on a rampage), the Hexorcist (a somewhat-reformed warlock), the Queen of Hearts (basicaly Harley Quinn), and Weather Mistress (a master thief).
  • Outliers: These crazies are defending the fabric of the universe itself, assembled by a cosmic entity known as the Norn. They are Inside Man (a superpowerful criminal whose powers depend on being inside), Lady Diamond (summons diamonds around her for protection and weaponry), Parts Unknown (a constantly shifting mutation), Seism (earthquake powers), and Shell (powered armor that looks like a crash test dummy).
  • Upstarts: These aliens are refugees from a forced extraterrestrial labor program, determined to fight anti-alien sentiment on Earth. The team is Boss (a powerhouse with incredible resistance), Esbat (alien psychic), Feedback (a technopath controlling nanoswarms), Ignition (a plasma-controlling alien in search of a cure), and Manic (a speedster existing outside of time).
  • Magna Force: This a color-themed team who transforms into mecha robots, something in the vein of the Power Rangers. The five members of the team are Magna Blue, Magna Green, Magna Pink, Magna Red, and Magna Yellow (varying only in their weapons and shape) and they combine together to make the PL 15 Magna King.
  • Ferroburg 4: Are the local team of the Rust Belt city of Ferroburg, as described in the Atlas of Earth-Prime. They were all working independently and then, like some rough-around-the-edges Avengers, they came together to solve the city’s problems. The four heroes are Blackjack (a combination of Domino and Batman), Kid-Kid (a parkour expert with a mystical link to the city), Rust Belt (a blue-collar gadgeteer), and the Witch (an urban… well, witch).
  • Shadow Knights: This squad based in San Francisco are basically four knock-offs of the Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles, although in this case it’s teenaged mutant ninja rabbits (I’m serious). Carlotta, Francesca, Lucille, and Marie are all female heroes and their nemesis, the Iron Empress, is a woman as well so the gender-flipping does make this a slightly more interesting story.
  • AEGIS Red Group: The elite trouble-shooting unit for the federal AEGIS organization fights terrorism and they don’t do it in spandex. Jessie Baker, Lyla Chen, Lee Franks, Matti Scoggins, and Hamid Zarifa don’t have powers but they’re extremely skilled and extremely effective. Basically they’re Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. with a new acronym, and a great look at the team set-up without supers.
Image © Green Ronin Publishing

Conclusion

Like all Mutants and Masterminds products, the Superteam Handbook is pretty dense. There’s a lot packed in here and all of it is fantastic, even the Shadow Knight ninja-bunnies and the transforming mecha-robot Magna Force. All of the mechanics and guides in this book are perfect for making a team of heroes who are mechanically useful and for making a story about that team that flows well and allows you to showcase the team members well.

I recommend this book 100% for anyone thinking of running a campaign based on a superteam, but also for anyone using Mutants & Masterminds generally. There’s a ton of great material here for a campaign and it will dramatically expand your M&M game.

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