A certain 1980s action toy/cartoon property was recently remade into a live-action movie that was so bad it almost destroyed all possible nostalgia for the mindless fun of that era. The sad thing is, that doesn’t even narrow it down enough: I’m talking about the G.I. Joe movie. Anyway, Crafty Games is here to restore your faith in colored lasers, modern military conflicts involving ninjas and battlecry/catch-phrases: “Yooooooooo H.E.R.O.!”
Real American H.E.R.O.ES is an expansion for the Spycraft 2.0 OGL game. It’s a very thinly veiled take on the 80s action cartoon genre, specifically G.I. Joe, though there are nods to more obscure toys, like M.A.S.K., as well as G.I. Joe-style movies from the 80s, many of which featured Chuck Norris. And, quite honestly, this is brilliant. Just reading through the book will elicit giggles of excitement if you were a kid in the 80s and the names Storm Shadow and Serpentor mean anything to you. This is the perfect genre/setting for a exciting RPG session, especially when you just can’t possibly kill another orc.
At the core of Real American H.E.R.O.ES is the ongoing conflict between American special forces group H.E.R.O. (Headquarters for Eminent Risk Oversight) and worldwide terrorist group National Military Exports (N.M.E. – it might take a second, but you’ll laugh). Added to the mix is a sundered ninja clan and a group of outlaw bikers who hate America. Everyone is armed to the teeth with the most ludicrously advanced military technology, and just about every encounter ends in an insane firefight.
You do need Spycraft 2.0 to play Real American H.E.R.O.ES — there are only two new classes, but most of the Spycraft classes will fit right in. You’ll also need Spycraft for more details on how organizations work. Allegiance and faction rank are core concepts in this game. There are some new abilities available, like “Muhahahahaha!” which allows an N.M.E. Overlord to take a half action to cackle evilly and give his enemies a morale hit, or “Severe Ass-Chewing,” which is bad news if you’re in the military.
A special ops agent is nothing without a staggering array of weaponry, and this book delivers. Lasers, corrosive guns, armored personnel carriers bristling with guns, aircraft with code names only slightly sillier than the ones real military planes get, even vehicles designed for space combat — just remember to keep track of which side is using which color lasers.
There’s not a ton of time devoted to role-playing or character development, and honestly, that seems totally appropriate here. You never really cared about Snake-Eyes’ romance with Scarlett, you just wanted to see him chuck throwing stars at Destro, dodge a barrage of lasers, jump half a mile and ninja kick 18 goons. There are a few hints for getting the theme right and making sure you have enough action in your adventures (if you’ve gone five minutes without a worldwide threat, a massive laser battle, an aerial assault or a paradrop into a jungle, you’re doing it wrong, and if you go half an hour without all four at once, you’re still doing it wrong).
Perhaps my favorite elements in this book are the plot charts. Even as kids, we started to catch on that the plots were pretty interchangeable. To shortcut the adventure design process, Real American H.E.R.O.ES offers us the Diabolical Plot Generator, a D20 chart that will quickly provide you with N.M.E.’s goal, method and target. Here are two examples I came up with by rolling on the chart, and they show off the variety of mission types you can get this way.
Goal: Take control of target. Method: False-flag operations. Target: Former Colleagues.
Goal: Topple government. Method: Widespread destruction. Target: Nuclear stockpile.
Sounds like a fun Saturday afternoon to me!
But you can’t have a diabolical plot without a Mcguffin (a fictional item created solely to fuel the plot, i.e. The One Ring). There’s a chart for that, too. Here’s two more examples (although nothing beats the infamous P.L.O.T. Device from a certain City of Heroes mission).
Device: Radio broadcast. Effect: Mind Control. Weakness: Immobile. Location: Big city.
Device: Stealth balloon. Effect: Insanity. Weakness: Sympathetic foil. Location: War zone.
You can get a pdf copy of Real American H.E.R.O.ES at DrivethruRPG.