Foes of Freedom

Freedom City was widely hailed as the best supers sourcebook of all time and it won 3 ENnie Awards at GenCon, 2003. Foes of Freedom makes the city even better. This new sourcebook introduces dozens of devious villains to Freedom City, from the rogue star knight Blackstar to the murderous Jack-a-Knives to the vengeful Silver Scream. Villain groups like Larceny, Inc. and the Psions provide new challenges to Freedom City's protectors, while the book's new feats and powers make a great addition to any Mutants & Masterminds game. Printed in beautiful full color throughout, Foes of Freedom takes Freedom City to the next level.
 

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Keeper of Secrets

First Post
Foes of Freedom is the latest offering from Green Ronin Publishing, the creator of Mutants & Masterminds. Written by Steve Kenson and Steven E. Schend, Foes of Freedom is a compilation of criminals for use in a Mutants & Masterminds campaign. Like all Mutants & Masterminds products, the illustrations are wonderful, specifically the ones by comics illustrator, Ramon Perez. Unlike many of the other Mutants & Masterminds products, this is a soft cover book, which is a nice departure from the hardbound books that Green Ronin has out. This is hardly a knock against the hardback covers but anything to reduce some costs is always appreciated.

The basic structure of the book is simple: team villains, solo villains, details of Blackstone Prison where the criminals are incarcerated when they are caught, and finally a few new rules in the back of the book. Most everything is put forth in fabulous detail and it is apparent that great care went into it. As with everything else in the Mutants & Masterminds line, it is apparent that the writers love comic books and the work put into Foes of Freedom demonstrates this.

I’ll start by pointing out some of my own biases so you can judge some of my comments for yourself. First, I tend to prefer villains that I call ‘Cult of Personality’ villains. What I mean by this is the kind of villain that is based around a theme or an obsession or where the personality drives the villain, making them center stage. This is the kind of villain that the PCs can really get to know, banter with, and predict future behavior. That said, I tend to dislike an abundance of aliens, strange races and similar villains for the simple fact that aliens and unusual races can bring in deep complications for a GM who has a specific pre-made world. Of course, like I said, that is my own bias and it is perfectly legitimate to use these types of villains in most campaigns and GM personal preference will always win out.

One of the high points of Foes of Freedom is the intricate set of team villains the writers introduce. As previously mentioned, I tend to like solo villains as those villains tend to get individual attention, so my praise of the team villains is a real positive factor. For instance, two of the more interesting groups, The Foundry and The Labyrinth are especially great additions. In fact, they are more than just criminal groups but are actively elaborate plot devices.

The Foundry is basically a collection of robots, computers and machines that has designs for world domination using their contacts in defense contracting, big business and the criminal underworld to achieve their goals. It is apparent that great care was taken by the authors to explain how The Foundry is set up, basically informing the GM how to best run the ‘personalities’ to really give the cold and calculating feel of a criminal network operated by robots and machines.

Much like criminal organizations in the comics, The Foundry has a hierarchical structure; Talos (the mastermind at the top who pulls the strings), Keres (Talos’ second-in-command and chief enforcer), SCYLLA (the quasi-sentient computer that takes care of the day-to-day operations), and a variety of stylistic drones and robots that can serve as guardians and combatants against the player characters.

At its root The Foundry is out for money and power, and as a result can provide months of excitement for a campaign. The GM who uses The Foundry has numerous plotlines available and an endless array of robotic warriors to use against the PCs. More importantly, GMs interested in solid storylines do not need to rely on suspension of disbelief needed when discussing where The Foundry manages to get their resources and underlings. These automations are simply created in the vast factories and warehouses at The Foundry’s disposal.

Whereas The Foundry is an excellent tool to use by the GM, one of the other groups in the book is absolutely outstanding. The Labyrinth is an organization that could be the focal point for its own campaign due to the deep clandestine mysteries the organization can provide. It is a shadowy conspiracy that could be behind any number of grandiose and elaborate schemes.

Whereas The Foundry would be hard to defeat due to the sheer numbers of automations than can continue to appear, The Labyrinth is something entirely different. Led by Taurus, the Minotaur from Greek mythology, it is a centuries old conspiracy that is led by this mastermind. Taurus has accumulated wealth, power, contacts and underlings over the years and the explanation for how he did it is not only brilliant but also beautiful in its execution.

The explanation for the organization is that Taurus is at the top of an Illuminati style pyramid, controlling banks, corporations, crime networks, and just about anything else, considering his background and ability to have manipulated events in his favor over the past 3000 years. He has access to billions and billions of dollars, endless henchmen and has a mysterious reputation built around him like Keyser Soze from The Usual Suspects. Of course, the fact that The Labyrinth has so much mystery attached allows for the beautiful metaphor of a maze keeping the PCs guessing for numerous adventures. Criminal organizations that have numerous cat’s paws and figures who never really know who is pulling the strings allows for endless intrigue and excitement that the entire campaign could be dedicated to dealing with The Labyrinth, first by dealing with the lower levels, then finding that there is a higher network in place pulling the strings and finally being astounded as to the enormity of the organization.

Obviously, some GMs may be turned off by the idea of an organization so large and vast that it may seem an unreasonable task to undertake to even go up against it. However, the background for The Labyrinth and Taurus allow for the characters to become involved at some of the schemes directed at the lower levels, only to find out that the secrecy of the organization continuously has more masters above it. The complexity of the entire network would be more than memorable for players and GMs. It allows for just about any kind of crime or criminals to be tied to The Labyrinth, whether the criminals are aware of it or not. For some GMs this could be the perfect tool to add some life, mystery and intrigue to a campaign and really keep the players guessing.

The sections with the solo villains offer a wide variety of criminals. There are a few theme villains such as Conundrum and Fear-Master that appear to be great interpretations of Batman’s Riddler and Scarecrow, respectively. In addition, there is Jack-A-Knives which is more of a serial killer/ghost that can possess people and have them enact his murderous crimes, reminding me a great deal of the film, Fallen. Captain Kraken is an alien that looks like a Dungeons & Dragons mind flayer in a swashbuckler’s attire coming off as light-hearted by comparison to some of the others. Crimson Katana is a woman who is a reluctant criminal, possessed by her evil grandfather who was essentially a ninja assassin. Die Nacht-Krieger is a throwback to the Nazi regime, who was a successful experiment in the Third Reich’s Ubermenschen Project, utilizing control over shadows. One of my personal favorites is Dr. Simian, an intelligent ape who feels that humanity is vastly inferior and needs to be punished for crimes against primates, reminding me a great deal of Gorilla Grodd from DC comics (though likely more memorable from The Super Friends). A couple of the other criminals can certainly be used for a night of entertainment, such as Megaladon, a giant half man/half shark as well as The Collective, an entire sentient colony of roaches.

Unfortunately some of the villains in the solo section are not nearly as exciting or memorable. Blackstar, The Curator and Downtime seem to fall a little short of expectations, especially after the great characters that were introduced in Freedom City (which has some of the best criminals and bad guys Mutants & Masterminds has produced, to date). It is not that these above mentioned criminals are ‘broken’ or unbalanced but they just seem somewhat bland when compared to the creativity of the others. At the same time, I suspect there is someone out there who will look at Foes of Freedom and think that one of the above three is their favorite of the book. Shouts of ‘what does he know’ will erupt from every gaming table in America.

The section on Blackstone Prison is certainly interesting. It is a prison intended to house individuals with superhuman powers. The description of the prison is simple enough and whereas it comes with a map, it seems small to actually get any serious use out of it. I looked at it and decided that it would probably not be big enough to use in an adventure where the characters get stuck inside or have to deal with some prison break attempts. I think that the writers could have done a better job had they created a mental institution with the same look and feel of Arkham Asylum, giving it a rich and eerie history. On the plus side, however, the prison gives us statistics for guards, a description of the warden and some other tidbits.

Finally, the last section of the book deals with some new rules, including new feats, new super feats a new power and some templates for some of the material listed in prior sections of the book. The new feats are very solid and do not fall into the trap so many writers fall into where they design feats that seem so specific that they are all but useless for everything but a narrow situation that characters rarely, if ever, find themselves in.

Overall, whereas Foes of Freedom was good, it did not meet the great expectations that were set for it (and all other Mutants & Masterminds products) after the release of Freedom City. I know it is hardly fair to compare products to their predecessors and the product should be judged on its own merit, but Green Ronin has set the bar awfully high with great products. Foes of Freedom is certainly worth the price and whereas I highly recommend it, I guess I was hoping for just a little bit more. Overall, I give the book a 3 out of 5.
 

JoeGKushner

First Post
One of the most popular types of books for publishers to make is a monster book. In a super hero campaign, that is replaced by an Enemies book. Enemy books started with Hero Games a long time ago to add new foes for your heroes to face. In that vein, here comes Foes of Freedom, a Freedom City sourcebook whose main focus is on adding new opposition to the heroes of that setting.

This soft cover book runs for a low $23.95 at 96 full color pages. Interior covers are not used and some of the space decisions are made for a design point, but seem to use up a lot of paper. For example, the first page, a sign warning you of the dangers of Blackstone Special Federal Penitentiary, while the next two are credits and copyright information, then introduction and table of contents. The chapters are separated by full-page breaks that introduce the concept of the chapter (team villains, solo villains, Blackstone Prison). The back ends with a credits and OGL license.

The cover is handled by Ramon Perez, who also contributes to the inside, along with Hero fan favorite Storn Cook, and others like Jonathan Kirtz, Kevin Stokes, and James Ryman. They do a good job overall, but Crooks strikes me a little better. I suspect it’s because most of the illustrations in Crooks are larger and give you more of a feel for the characters. In this book, with several of the teams, we have a team illustration, and then for the individual characters, a head shot, taken from the team illustration. Internal maps are presented for several locals and are all in full color.

In terms of utility, using this in Freedom City is easier than Crooks, which was designed for and created, the Meta-4 campaign setting. Here, we have some old favorites who’ve been mentioned before like the Brotherhood of the Yellow Sign, along with servants of those introduced like the Curator, a machine man following the orders of the Preservers.

Villains are detailed starting with their history, information on actually using them, tactics, game stats, associates (for example, Cerberus for Hades), Villain Profile (vital statistics like height, weight, etc…), and Capers, quick adventure seeds that allow you to use them quickly.

In terms of power level, we have a good mix. For example, Larceny, Inc is a small group consisting of Get-Away, Smash, Grab and Trap Door, who are perfect for a starting group as most of them are PL 10, with their leader being a PL 11. ON the other hand, for those who’ve gone the distance and find themselves yawning when the Atomic Brain gets old hat, we’ve got Hades, the Lord of the Underworld, who clocks in at a massive PL 28. Perfect for a god no? In many ways, he’s like Loki. Due to his interference, the heroes that would make up Freedom League gathered to fight off his minions. Under his direction, mortals seek to gather power. Under his guidance, the entity known as Jack-A-Knives inflicts pain and suffering on the world.

One of the more interesting Villains is X-Isle. This is an island that arose from one of the Terminus invasions and it seeks inhabitants. It lies not in our own world and in some ways, is like Ego the Living Planet in that it can create ‘anti-bodies’ to handle those who seek to prevent it from accomplishing its goals.
Information on Blackstone prison is useful, but not completely detailed. More along the lines of “Here’s a prison, some overview maps, and a few caretakers for your own use. This includes a template for the guards, details on Warden Joshua Drummer and Dr. Abby.

An appendix provides us with some new rules and sidebars on the various PL of the villains. Unfortunately, there are no page references so you’ll still have to flip through the book, and since the book is organized by team, then by solo villain instead of straight alphabetical order, it’s not as easy as it should be. Some of these new feats are of obvious villain base like Fall Guy, where you spend a Villain Point and have a minion take the hit you were going to take while others are of potential use to anyone like the super feat Immortal Experience where you can use any skills untrained and spend a Hero (or Villain) point and get an automatic 20 result for any Int- or Wis-based skills (except for Computers and new Science Skills). It’s an interesting idea and can be of prime benefit to those individuals who’ve been around foe thousands of years without having to spend hundreds of points on knowledge skills. Even better is that an Editor’s Note provides a list of Freedom City characters that should have this feat.

In a direct comparission between Foes of Freedom and Crooks, I think Crooks has several advantages. The first of which, is that it’s the first book for the series. The second, the art is larger and more pleasing to the eye. The third is the format. I almost always prefer hardcover to soft cover. On the other hand, Crooks also dealt with Meta-4 as a different campaign setting than Freedom City and is more expensive. Foes of Freedom is another strong entry in the Mutants & Masterminds series and those GMs using Freedom City will enjoy the ease of integration.
 

Teflon Billy

Explorer
Foes of Freedom is (ostensibly) an enemies supplement for Green Ronin’s Freedom City campaign setting. Green Ronin’s previous kick-at-the-can in this category, Crooks, was an unmitigated home run, so I was happy to see that their flagship setting was getting a tailor-made equivalent.

My first impression is that, despite it’s great production values, Foes of Freedom falls a bit short of the bar set by its predecessor.

Normally I don’t comment on the art in supplements too heavily as, though I know art is proven to drive sales, I think it’s very subjective and not something you can reasonably “Criticize” with any validity.

But in the case of superhero games, I not only think it is a more important component than usual, I think it’s easy enough to describe whether a product has genre-appropriate/suitable art.

The art is up to Mutants and Masterminds standards, which is to say “Industry-leading”, from M&M stalwart Ramon Perez’s cover and interior work to the rich, painting-like work of Jonathan Kirtz, to Kevin Stokes’ older-school comic-booky (?) renditions, the totality of the art presented meets or exceeds expectations.

The first chapter details important Villain Groups of Freedom City (though in practice the first two are more global conspiracies than traditional “Villain Groups”).

The villain groups have a nice mix of power level from that of Larceny Inc. who—with their “Robin Hood” outlook and behaviour, are just barely justifiable for inclusion in a Villain supplement—all the way up to The Labyrinth a secret cabal of world-spanning influence led by none other than King Mino’s Minotaur, from Greek Myth (Renamed Taurus here).

It’s nice to see the Brotherhood of the Yellow Sign, as it wouldn’t be a Green Ronin product without an antediluvian cult of snake-men lurking about :)

Also included are the armament-producing group, The Foundry mentioned in Freedom City. Which nicely buffs up any needs the GM might have for combat droids and minions for the bronze automaton: Talos.

The Mayombe (a cult led by superpowered practitioners of Voodoo) have already found a place in my campaign and are well done.

For whatever reason though, and I wish I could place my finger on it, the supervillain groups in Foes of Freedom lack much of the “spark” I have come to expect from M&M products. Not that there is anything mechanically or conceptually wrong with them (Though I have some concerns with the layout of The Labyrinth’s section—I am still unsure if the grey-haired older guy pictured is Constantine Urallos or Johnathan Grant), I think it is well done. It just lacks. I wish I had a better description of what, exactly, it lacks.

The next section, Solo Villains comes storming back with a healthy portion of the quality material I was expecting.

Highlights include...

The Collective: a fantastic abomination that is an amalgam of all of Freedom City’s cockroaches. A giant, intelligent, humanoid hive-mind that gets smarter, larger and more cunning as more cockroaches join the gestalt. Though there are a couple of burps in the character build that aren’t well-explained (why, exactly, is The Collective’s Growth power triggered by energy attacks?), this is a conceptual home-run, showing the versatility of the M&M character generation system about as well as we have yet seen.

Crimson Katana: Another good one! A young woman possessed by the spirit of her father (A WW2-era Japanese Superhero(villain?), The original Crimson Katana). She is a determined to “undo the evils of her father”, but the magical swords she possesses often allow her father’ spirit to take control of her body and wreak havoc. Unlike most published M&M characters claiming to be “Dangeorus Combatants”, the Crimson Katana’s build back it up. Deadly art as well.

Dr. Simian: What would a silver-agey setting be without a hyper-intelligent gorilla super-scientist on the loose? Dr. Simian fills this need beautifully. The plot hooks involving use of The Primate Patrol found in the Time of Crisis adventure should prompt a few worthwhile sales of that product.

Freebooter: Is a crippled young hacker, teleoperating an Pirate-style android to wreak vengeance on those he feels are beyond the reach of proper justice. To quote

[bq]“…he’ll bring down a company for having laid off workers but given board members raises. He’ll dig up personal secrets of government officials and release them online if a senator votes for a lobby rather than his constituents. He hates the idea of information restrictions and fights government regulation to “Keep information free”…”[/bq]

Call me a pinko, but what is this guy doing in a villain book?

Hades, Lord of the Underworld: PL28 Greek God of death and the underworld…in case The Atomic Brain was just not hardcore enough for your players.

Nacht Krieger: A Nazi! In fact pretty much the superpowered Nazi of the setting (according to the M&M Annual) another character build that lives up to it’s hype. Deadly to your players like the plague was deadly to Europe (maybe moreso, given that the plague only got about a third. of Europe). A humanoid shadow with a Nazi assassin’s mind.

The appendix winding up the product presents some new rules and some notes on the PL of the villains presented. What are missing are page references so it’s a little harder to make use of than you might think.

Some of these new feats seem rather inspired by Heroclix (the new feat Fall Guy pretty much is Mastermind), while Confuse seems to have been inspired by Perplex, but they work well here so who’s complaining?)

The new Feat Immortal Experience is something the game needed badly for verisimilitude, and thanks to this feat (and the hero point mechanic) it is now possibly to credibly make characters who are thousands of years old, and appropriately experienced. Nice!

In closing, I think I liked Crooks better than I liked Foes of Freedom. It had more “pizzazz” (or maybe the whole thing was just new to me at that point), but I think what it honestly comes down to is that Foes is almost 50 characters for a setting that has already had over 50 setting-specific characters detailed in its core book. I think most of the truly compelling (to the author) characters were statted-out long before Foes of Freedom was ever on the drawing board.

This isn’t a bad product by any stretch of the imagination. I think it just suffers from the entire product line having set the bar so high.
 
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Khur

Sympathy for the Devil
Foes of Freedom is the latest in Green Ronin's Mutants & Masterminds supplements, touted as a Freedom City sourcebook. It's a sturdy softcover with glossy, full-color covers and interior pages. Weighing in at 96 pages, all but seven of them filled with content, Foes of Freedom retails for $23.95.

The physical quality of the volume is very good and the presentation even better. That Super Unicorn didn't do the graphic design for is immediately evident, but that's not a knock against Hal Mangold (the layout artist). Foes of Freedom is very attractive. The art, cover to cover, is at least good and, at times, wonderful--including Christopher West's maps. A caveat to this general statement is that some of the villains aren't illustrated, while others are shown more than once--often with portions of a larger image appearing elsewhere in the book.

Foes of Freedom is divided into four major sections. Villainous organizations are detailed first, with solo scoundrels taking the second slot. Blackstone prison, a jail for super criminals, is given the third position. New rules take up the rear.

Seven organizations grace the pages of Foes of Freedom, though some of these are mere villain teams and one shouldn't be in the organization section at all. (Four villains is a little small to call an "organization," as is one dinosaur, no matter how big.) Things-humans-were-not-meant-to-know take shape in the form of a cult familiar to those who have experience with Green Ronin's Freeport--the Brotherhood of the Yellow Sign, an apocalyptic faction of serpent people. Villainy takes a more conventional turn with the Foundry, covering the hateful ideals of robotic masterminds and their goal to dominate the world. The iniquity expands to global financial dominance and conspiracy with the ubiquitous Labyrinth. Following these world-threatening colossi, are some other groups including a section on monsters (not really an organization from crater apes (from the moon) to the embodiment of Freedom City's dark side--Scrap. Larceny Inc. gives some relief with a typical money-for-nothing group of robbers (though Larceny Inc. has a cool secret), but things get a bit darker with the Mayombe, a sinister voodoo sect, perfect for magic-focused campaigns. The section ends with the Psions.

Of the organizations, the Psions are the most intriguing. For this group, think of a leader that's Professor X and Magneto combined (more bad than good) with some misguided, mental-powerhouse grandchildren (literally). That's Psion and his scions (Psion is their surname). The tough thing is, grandpa has a mental superiority complex (psionic power is the next stage of evolution) and he has poisoned his children's children with the same arrogance. Add to the mix grandpa's work in human evolution and his need for very expensive equipment and materials. The work is for the benefit of humankind, you see. It's only right the Psions take what they need, because everyone will be better off for it in the end. Cooler still is the fact (missing from so many villains) that Psion believes he's doing good, and his grandchildren do too. Further, the younger Psions all have the possibility of seeing the error of their ways. Some are already having doubts.

Unlike the Psions, the rest of the organizations lack depth, to one degree or another. When a cult wants to destroy the world, as the Brotherhood of the Yellow Sign does, it's easy to decide what to do. How does one deal with a similar cult selling voodoo drugs to the populace and making them into zombies? Well, it's once again clobberin' time. What can the heroes do when faced with robots, such as those in the Foundry, bent on the eventual elimination of humanity? Little else besides show those robots the power of flesh while seeking that elusive "off" switch. Only the Labyrinth has some deeper value (as the Foundry does to a lesser degree) as a world-spanning conspiracy from before the Common Era. Unfortunately, with both larger organizations, the GM is left with the hard work (see Critical Fumble).

Not that there's anything wrong with rock-em, sock-em bad guys, but some opportunities were missed here. A few cool alternatives do exist with the groups, like the Mayombe priestess's quest for youth and beauty. How Scrap manifests itself as an avenger for even the worst motivated of Freedom City's citizens is also nice. These situations are the exceptions, though, not the rule. And Scrap isn't really part of an organization. He's a solo villain.

More than a few of those grace the pages of Foes of Freedom. Most are new and welcome additions the Mutants & Masterminds game (and Freedom City's universe), while a couple are characters who should have really appeared in Mutants & Masterminds Annual #1. (Blackstar, the fallen Star Knight, and Nacht-Krieger, the shadow Nazi, are two who fall into this latter category.) These villains range from creepy, such as the Collective (a being formed of hive-minded cockroaches) and the Goth-gone-bad Fear Master, to totally alien, such as the Curator (a Preserver artifact with collecting on the brain) and X-Isle (a sentient double of Freedom City, living in another dimension). In fact, little is predictable about most of these villains as far as style and origins go.

The only things that become monotonous are how most have escaped from prison one or more times and have been defeated already by this or that Freedom City hero. Further, few of these villains have any qualities that would make for compelling reasons not to simply mop the floor with them and shout, "Good riddance!" For example, Blackstar started out as a misguided warrior with truly good intentions, but instead of playing up this appealing feature of the former Star Knight, the author molds Blackstar into a "bitter and hateful individual." Moral quandaries, complex personalities, and evocative motivations (even for the bad guys) are one of the things that make stories about world-shaking superheroes attractive. Without these things, the game degenerates into a continuous string of meaningless fisticuffs with the only variance being what the evildoer can do and what he wears.

A few exceptions to this all-too-sweeping generality can be found in Foes of Freedom, of course. Take Freebooter, a paraplegic computer genius with an android alter ego. Freebooter likes to stick it to The Man and spread the information and the wealth. That these actions are invariably illegal is of no consequence to Freebooter, and it's possible one or more of the heroes will sympathize with his motivations, if not the deeds themselves. Other exceptions include Dr. Simian (terrible name, but an ape out to save the world from human misuse is still a cool idea) and Megalodon (a biologist who becomes a ravening shark man due to his reckless quest to heal himself). These are villains that need more than to be thrown in a deep, dark hole.

But when some super-creep needs a windowless cell, that cell is best found at Blackstone Prison. Foes of Freedom briefly describes the prison, including a nice map, and has statistics for the guards (actually a template), the warden, and chief of security. This treatment seems adequate enough even to base an adventure at the prison site, which makes one wonder why space was taken in the section's introduction to claim there wasn't enough space to detail Blackstone fully. Was there really a need for that? Not if it left the necessary room for the book's final section.

That section is full of new rules, most of which appear as abilities in the villains. New rules are usually a welcome addition to any game book, and they're even better when examples of their context are right there for viewing. The chapter also has a few items that don't really come into the main body of Foes of Freedom, but are useful anyway. The Olympian template is one such gem. It'll help a Freedom City GM flesh out the Olympian pantheon that seems so prevalent in the A-Terra universe--much like Marvel Universe's penchant for Norse gods.

Critical Hit
Foes of Freedom has plot hooks galore! Each and every villain and organization, except the Psions, has one or more (usually two) seeds for capers involving them. (The Psions have enough built-in angst that making adventures about them shouldn't be too much of a problem.) Even Blackstone Prison provides two hooks. Many of the capers tie to other Freedom City villains and organizations (this is a Freedom City sourcebook), and a few even tie two villains from Foes of Freedom together. While, of course, some of these hooks are obvious, there are more than 50 in the book. Sometimes even the obvious is good, though, because adventure ideas are often the hardest part of a GM's job. You won't be left wondering how to use a villain with Foes of Freedom, and these tools help prevent this compendium from falling into the doldrums of just being another rogue's gallery.

Critical Fumble
With world-spanning conspiracies and super villains who get their "super" from their intellects, the easy part is making up the character and headquarters stats. The hard part, and one the purchasers of this book will be left to do for themselves, is playing the mastermind, creating complex schemes, or figuring out the relationships, fronts, networks, and power players within a group. Making a story that feels like the heroes are working their way to the spider in the center of the web isn't easy. In fact, with the huge and influential Labyrinth, a chart of companies, organizations, and relationships was really in order. A similar case exists with the villain Conundrum and his brilliant scheme. What does such a dastardly plan entail? Examples in these cases would have made this book exceptionally valuable.

Coup de Grace
Foes of Freedom gives everything its back cover suggests and more. It's a high-quality, beautifully presented book with enough power to knock unwary Freedom City heroes into the next reality (literally in some cases). A villain sourcebook, of course, is more for a GM than players, but playability takes another hit from the lack of constructive examples for complex subjects such as conspiracies and super-intelligent criminals. Still, Foes of Freedom is worth your gaming greenbacks. Good stuff like this will keep your heroes cowled and in their tights for a long time to come. Will Freedom City ever be the same?

Score: 4.35 out of 5

This review originally appeared at d20 Magazine Rack.
 

By John Grigsby, Staff Reviewer d20 Magazine Rack

Initiative Round
Foes of Freedom is a Mutants & Masterminds supplement from Green Ronin. This 96-page full-color softcover by Steve Kenson and Steven E. Schend features cover art by Ramón Pérez depicting the nefarious Dr. Simian holding the Freedom League at bay. Jonathon Kirtz, Kevin Stokes, Storn Cook, James Ryman, and Ramón Pérez contribute to the interior art. Foes of Freedom retails for $23.95.

What’s a hero without vile villains to face off against? One thing is for sure. The heroes of Freedom City may never have to find out. Foes of Freedom is the latest offering from Green Ronin that insures that your heroes will never be without a threat to stand against.

The book is divided into four parts; villain organizations, soloists, Blackstone Prison, and new rules. Seven villainous organizations are described in this book, complete with members, base of operations, and everything a GM needs to introduce them right away. In the soloists section, the GM is offered a selection of 17 villains designed to stand on their own, ranging from PL 11 to X-Isle, the Living City, which goes beyond the conventional power scale. Finally, Blackstone Prison describes a facility off the coast of Freedom City, designed to hold the worst super-threats imaginable.

The new rules consist of four new feats (Confuse, Fall Guy, Master Plan, and Seize Initiative), two new super feats (Immortal Experience and Psychic Finesse), the Preternatural power source, a new power (Feedback), and three new templates (Jack-A-Knives, Olympian, and Serpent Person).

Critical Hit
Kudos on the write up of Blackstone Penitentiary. It makes sense that such an establishment would be found in a book of villains, and it’s given enough detail that I can see the potential for more than a few adventures set within the prison itself. In fact, my players may soon find themselves wrongfully imprisoned. Will they survive among those they’ve put away long enough to prove their innocence?

I was also very pleased to see the Brotherhood of the Yellow Sign included in this book. It has been alluded to in past Freedom City supplements that a connection exists between Freeport and Freedom City. This confirms it, and I love it!

Critical Fumble
This is a book aimed at higher-level campaigns, and that detracts slightly from its usability. My campaign, for example, features characters at PL 6, so in order to use any of the major villains in here, I’m going to have to do make some adjustments. I’d like to have seen a greater spread of villains, both low-powered and high-powered.

Coup de Grace
If you can’t get enough villains to throw against your players, the Foes of Freedom will delight you no end. All told, there are 41 characters that represent the depths of scum and villainy herein. Only the mechanics have been designated as Open Game Content, but the artwork is top-notch and the selection of villains (and their power levels) insures that you’ll have plenty of foes to choose from. It lacks an index, but the table of contents lists each character and a chart of character sorted by power level is available in the new rules section.

Final Grade: A-
 

Frozen Yakman

First Post
The "critical fumble" mentioned doesn't seem like a fumble at all. Level 1 in Mutants and Masterminds is PL 10 and most, if not all, the villians in Foes of Freedom are reasonable opponents for that level. If you're playing a PL 6 game then playing outside the scope for which the game was designed. The fault is not the products.
 

GameWyrd

Explorer
Foes of Freedom is a Mutants and Masterminds supplement from Green Ronin. Our first concern is likely to be; "Is it as good as the other Mutants and Masterminds supplement? Yes, I suppose it is.

The first caveat to make is that Foes of Freedom is very definitely an enemy book. If you prefer making your own your villains - as many gamers do - this probably isn't the book for you. However, as both a boon and a bane, Foes of Freedom is interlinked with other Freedom City plot strands - the Atom family, Terminus and Dr Metropolis, etc, etc. This means that if you don't fancy having a mass of NPCs but do fancy having all the canon world comments then you may find yourself "forced" into buying Foes of Freedom. In almost every other circumstance it's simply good that the book intertwines with other official Mutants and Masterminds products.

As we've come to expect from the series, Foes of Freedom is a wonderfully visual book. It's colourful and precise with its layout. There's an awful lot of information; crunch and gamemeal, but it's never overwhelming and easy on the eye. There's a bold use of colours for the three main sections. The villainous groups have a blue masthead on every page, those villains able (or just willing) to be loners have a red masthead and the few pages of additional rules are decorated in grey.

There are 96 pages in Foes of Freedom and the villainous groups section concludes on page 48. I think we can safely say that that's half the book. We have a decent mix here; from the techno-terror of The Foundry, to the rouges of Larceny, Inc, general monsters and even the financial clout of the Minotaur's The Labyrinth. It's always hard being original in a superheroes supplement and its originality and inspiration that I look for in NPC books. The first few page turns do not fair particularly well for Foes of Freedom in this respect. The very first Villain Organisation are the Brotherhood of the Yellow Sign - a cult of snake people (now with human minions) who worship an imaginable alien intelligence. Uh-uh. I don't need to pay money to have someone rip off Lovecraft. I was bored of this spin years ago and it's sorely disappointing to see it here. At least there's a tie back between the Brotherhood of the Yellow Sign and the villain organisation The Mayombe a spooky voodoo group.

One of the strengths of Foes of Freedom as a worthwhile addition to Freedom City is that these villain organisations do riff off one another. These groups oppose one another where their interests, egos or backgrounds overlap. In the interests of spoilers I'm not going to detail this much more, though.

The solo villains share a similar diversity of styles; we've psychological enemies like the Fear-Master, almost meta-plot foes like The Curator, anti-heroes like the Crimson Katana (deadly, better than most heroes, but who tries not to kill...), actual plot-only villains like the living city of X-Isle and typical thugs like Megalodon.

A good test of Foes of Freedom is the Power Level scope presented by the book. The supplement does well here and finds room for mere PL1 enemies (such as human cultists and Foundry Servodroids) all the way up to the scary levels of PL17 for Taurus, PL18 for The Curator and *eep* PL28 for Hades himself. Freedom City has absolutely no qualms about dipping into Greek Mythology. I wish it hadn't started but now it has I'm glad it has leapt in with both feet forward.

Mutants and Masterminds does well not to succumb to the Big Guns syndrome. The Big Guns syndrome occurs when RPG supplements have to publish increasingly powerful and outlandish abilities, secrets or twists in order to pry open people's wallets. However, superhero supplements do work by introducing heroes or villains with unpredictable new powers (as is the case in superhero comics) so its entirely appropriate for Foes of Freedom to include just a few pages of powers and for some of the new villains to have some of these abilities.

I'll honestly be entirely surprised if Mutants and Masterminds have not already picked up their copy of Foes of Freedom by the time this review has seen the light of the internet. It's one to buy for all fans. If you're less of a core fan and more of a gamer who happens to have Mutants and Masterminds then Foes of Freedom still doesn't to be much in the way of a troublesome decision. If you want canon plot and characters then pick up a copy of the book or if you need villains and don't mind taking them off the shelf then splash the cash (nearly $24) for this supplement too.

* This Foes of Freedom was first published at GameWyrd.
 

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