This work presents a bizarre fusion of military covert operations and comic book capers and yet - unless you are a die-hard realist - it works! In fact, even if you are a die-hard realist it takes little more than stripping off the silly names and as much of the exotic equipment as you are uncomfortable with to still get it to work.
Opening with a history of the United States Headquarters for Eminent Risk Oversight and a timeline of some of their major operations, we're soon immersed in the current structure and operational landscape of H.E.R.O. Somewhere along the line they have acquired an enemy organisation (over and above normal bogey-men like Communists and more recently terrorists) and this is the main focus of present-day skirmishing. This enemy is called National Military Exports (N.M.E.) and in true comic book style, H.E.R.O. operatives wear green uniforms and N.M.E. ones have blue uniforms. (Does N.M.E. mean something special, I wonder? The only acronym I know is a UK music magazie, the New Musical Express that's always known by its initials...)
Both H.E.R.O. and N.M.E. are presented as Spycraft 2.0 'factions' with all the associated game mechanics - so you can choose a side with ease. If you fancy N.M.E. or just need to know more about them, there's a potted history of how they came about, led by an insane megalomaniac who calls himself the Arch-Enemy. Calls himself that, mark you, it's not an epithet his opponents coined for him! Building N.M.E. up from a small private security contractor to its current state, they are apparently behind such 'incidents' as Three Mile Island, the first Palestinian Intifada, the Ethiopian famine, the Challenger tragedy, the War on Drugs, the Tiananmen Square massacre, Big Hair Bands, the Loma Prieta Earthquake, the Exxon Valdez oil spill and 9/11 - plenty here for a conspiracy theorist to get their teeth into.
Just in case these two factions are not enough, there are three more - the Morrigna Corporation (arms dealers), the Shirobikou clan (ninjas), and the Wreckers (a biker gang) - to spin into the mix. All much smaller, they shift allegiances as it suits them, allies one day, opponents the next... or maybe playing both sides at once.
Next comes all the details you need to build a character who is part of one or another of these factions, but with the apparent assumption that you'll be joining H.E.R.O. As well as lots of build hints, there's new material: new master classes, new feats... and lots of new toys! Much of this material will be of use whether or not you want to run this setting. If you enjoy cinematic action movies and want your characters swooping in on a monowing or a jet pack, this is the place to look. There's a vast array of vehicles and weapons to choose from, complete with brief descriptions and a chart with all the game mechanics you need to use them in play.
This is followed by various tables to help you administrate the faction mechanics Renown and Allegience. There are rank charts for each of the five factions so that you may measure your progress in them.
Then we get down to the real stuff: how to run a 'Real American H.E.R.O.es' campaign. It needs to be cinematic, larger-than-life and a bit black and white - clear distinctions between the Good Guys and the Bad Sorts. Big threats, high stakes and big action scenes in thrilling locations. Themes, objectives, a 'diabolical plot generator' (yes, really!) and even a system for creating handy McGuffins are explored. Finally, there's a whole bunch of NPCs from all five factions to sling into the melee.
Taken in a spirit of fun, this larger-than-life approach can prove very entertaining. Don't try and take it seriously - if you want to game that way, mine this for the bits you want and put them into a different setting. All good fun...
Return to Real American H.E.R.O.es page.
Reviewed: 3 February 2015