Superline: Tomorrow's Headlines #1 is the first issue in a new series of magazine supplements for Mutants & Masterminds from Ronin Arts. Not the publisher's first Mutants & Masterminds Superlink title, the Superline series is designed to be fan orientated, in that in future issues will incorporate the input from its readers. Coming as a 2.4meg zipped file containing a 36-page PDF, the format is designed to match that of superhero comics, but then it can just as easily be printed out on A4. The contents are written for the Four-Colour genre, though with some grim and gritty elements. And whilst each issue is primarily available in electronic format, for a limited time, a print copy is also available.
The first issue contains just four scenarios, each designed to be played in just the one evening. Each is neatly organised, giving in turn a summary, the set up, the adventure, follow up, the supporting cast, and the main villains. What little artwork there is, is devoted solely to depicting each adventure's villains and is actually very good, bar the depiction of the witches in the last adventure, which does not match the earlier quality. Since the supplement is designed for use with the premiere d20 System superhero RPG from Green Ronin Publishing, Mutants & Masterminds, the quartet of adventures is easily scaleable up or down to match the level of the player character heroes. And of course, each adventure is easily adapted to other superhero RPGs.
The first adventure is "A New Drug" in which a new party drug known as "Pleasure" has spread throughout the city. It is quickly apparent that while the drug is an amazing mood enhancer, the downside is outbursts of rage, hostility and even violence. This escalates until the local police department is so busy that it is up to the heroes to track down the source and put an end to it before Pleasure spreads beyond the confines of the city. This is a good scenario, but after reading through the "Ask Your Doctor If Metatron Is Right For You?" chapter in Hero Games' Villainy Amok, it feels a little like the adventure has been done by the numbers.
"A Cold Front Sweeps Through The City" is a heist adventure, in which an armour suit wearing villain Arctic Blast breaks into the city museum to steal an Egyptian artefact. This quickly becomes a chase affair to prevent the villain from escaping with his loot. The adventure is a little basic, but it introduces elements that will be detailed in future issues of Superline including the artefact -- the Pharaoh's Staff; the Patriot Squad, a top secret US Government unit of super agents; and Watchgate, a prison for supervillains. Of course, such elements can easily be replaced with those from a GM's campaign.
The third scenario, "Abduction!" amounts to a "fast get out of that situation." It starts with a passenger jet, its engines and power systems not working on a glide path to doom. Unless the heroes can help it down safely the aeroplane will crash into the city! Once the heroes have done their best to save the jet, its passengers and anyone caught up in the chaos, they are suddenly abducted and find themselves incarcerated in an alien space gaol! Getting out and home is the objective here. The adventure leaves questions as to why the heroes were abducted unanswered, but does gift them with an alien shuttlecraft which can be used as a plot device later on, especially as it possesses an auto pilot feature.
The fourth and last adventure "The Witching Hour" is an encounter with a coven of witches back from the grave for vengence. Dealing with panic caused by the witches' activities will keep the heroes busy, but in the end they can only finish it by defeating the trio. This is no mean feat, as the coven is slightly more powerful than the player characters. To help the GM handle the trio, their tactics are neatly described in a boxed section. "The Witching Hour" is also useful if the hero team has a magician or sorcerer amongst its roster, possibly providing him with a recurring set of villains.
As written, the first issue of Superlines is not an unimpressive affair. It is certainly competently laid out, written, and presented, the quartet of adventures tend towards the workmanlike rather than the spectacular. Each adds small elements, like the alien shuttlecraft of "Abduction" or the "Pharaoh's Staff" of a "Cold Front . . . " but all four are scenarios that can be slotted easily into an ongoing campaign. Not just for Mutants & Masterminds, but for any superhero RPG. This is where the first issue of Superlines is useful and with luck, future issues will contain a little more depth.