Thursday, March 29, 2018

Freedom Squadron


Disclaimer: I have worked for Sean Patrick Fannon on Savage Rifts® and with Evil Beagle Games on several other projects. I am, however, not involved with Freedom Squadron in any capacity.

It doesn’t come up much, but I’m a G. I. Joe: A Real American Hero fan. In fact, I’m an ARAH snob. As far as I’m concerned, the pinnacle of the franchise is the original Larry Hama-written comic book series and every other aspect—the live-action films, the reboot toy lines Sigma Six and Renegades, the separate Devil’s Due and IDW comic continuities, and especially the Sunbow cartoon—succeed or fail based on how close they come to replicating the mixture of action, espionage, politics, and satire that Hama writes.

This disadvantages any ARAH cartoon-derivative Savage Worlds setting trying to gain my favor, especially when one of its touchstones is the G. I. Joe animated movie—a film that appeals to me only because of the snappily-animated opening credits and the fact that Duke nearly dies. (Hama fans do not like Duke.) Thankfully, Freedom Squadron transcends its inspiration and the weaknesses of G.E.T. Into Action and Strike Force 7, the other two G. I. Joe: A Real American Hero-based Savage settings.

Freedom Squadron—based on Spyglass Games’ board game VENOM Assault—presents a setting for military fantasy action set in 2051 CE. In the aftermath of World War III, international anti-terrorist and rescue team Freedom Squadron fights a fiery cold war with VENOM, a mysterious organization with ties to all the major conflicts of the 20th and 21st centuries. This futuristic setting helps Freedom Squadron leap the major pitfall Strike Force 7 falls victim to: modern politics. Jumping ahead into a world of new alliances and international cooperation creates a renewed innocence to the military fantasy genre, allowing for a battle against clear-cut bad guys without the spectre of extraordinary rendition or torture scandals.

The art assets inherited from VENOM Assault easily best the limited budget of G.E.T. Into Action (a petty complaint about the other setting, admittedly), but Freedom Squadron also gifts players with the chance to really…um…get into action. Players build their Freedom Squad heroes using Vocational Frameworks that provide hefty bonuses to skills and special abilities, providing an opportunity to charge headlong into the “high-octane” action writer Sean Patrick Fannon promises.

As one of Fannon’s Patreon backers, I’ve already read an early edit of the Commando’s Manual, the player’s handbook to character creation and setting background. The new Vocational Frameworks strike an excellent balance between the bombast of the Iconic Frameworks and the relative reserve of the M.A.R.S. packages found in Savage Rifts®. They neither turn player characters into superheroes nor do they require an additional Rank’s worth of Advances to make them viable out of the gate. Supplemented by the new Skill Focus rules, Flash Gordon-inspired narrower skill list, and Savage Rifts®-style Heroic Journey rolls, Freedom Squadron characters start the game ready to take on difficult odds—just like the small, specialized G. I. Joe team did against the faceless legions of COBRA troops in the comic.

As an example, let me build a character I made up when I was eleven. The mysterious mercenary Catamount was created by painting tan an original 1982 commando Snake-Eyes figure after the 1985 ninja version rendered the first toy redundant. Conceived as an honorable opponent in the vein of Kwinn or Storm Shadow, Catamount wore a ridiculous amount of throwing knives (because I thought throwing knives were cool back then) and had a mountain lion as a companion because of course he did.


Disclaimer: I am not an artist.

Catamount is an obvious fit for the Ninja Vocational Framework—which, thankfully, is the one Fannon has shared with the public as part of Freedom Squadron publicity, so I can go ahead and reprint the framework’s bonuses without giving away privileged information. Ninjas get:
  • Hero's Journey (One Roll): Ninja may take their single roll on any chart in this book except Command, Mechanized, and Tech & Engineering. 
  • Martial Training: Ninja study many forms of combat, starting with a d8 Fighting and the Martial Artist Edge. They also start with one of the following Fighting Styles (per the Edge): Accurate, Evasive, Fast, or Power. 
  • "Ninja-Like Reflexes:" The old adage comes from truth. Ninjas begin with a d6 Agility and the Quick Edge.
  • Shadow Masters: A Ninja is not worthy of the name without firm training in physical movement, obfuscation, and infiltration. All Ninja begin with a d6 Athletics, d6 Stealth, d6 Thievery, and the Thief Edge.   
Most other Vocational Frameworks start with fewer front-loaded abilities and more rolls on the Hero’s Journey tables, but this fits my needs very well. I’ll take Catamount’s single Hero’s Journey roll from the Infantry table (also publicly shared) and roll:
  • Advanced Infantry Training: You get five additional Skill Points, which can be spent on any of the following: Athletics, Fighting, Healing, Shooting, and Survival.
Aw, yeah. Put that all together, and we get:

Catamount
Novice Human Ninja
Attributes: Agility d10, Smarts d6, Spirit d8, Strength d6, Vigor d6
Skills: Athletics d10 (Focuses: Climbing, Throwing), Driving d8, Fighting d10, Healing d6, Shooting d6, Stealth d10, Survival d6, Thievery d10, Tracking d6
Charisma: –2; Pace: 6; Parry: 7; Toughness: 5
Hindrances: Turncoat, Loyal, Quirk (hates using guns)
Edges: Beast Master, Fighting Style (Fast), Martial Artist, Quick, Thief

Now, the frustrating thing here is that the Kickstarter is still short on unlocking the Friends/Foes Manual, the supplement that details the heroes and villains of the Freedom Squadron universe. When that unlocks, a new backer level will open up that allows backers to buy their characters into the universe (complete with professional illustration)! Even though I doubt I’d be able to afford it anyway, it would be cool to have the chance to make Catamount the Storm Shadow to Blindside’s Snake-Eyes.

With that in mind, you can back Freedom Squadron here.


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