Posted on June 14, 2010 by davidahilljr
Available at RPGNow.com
Hard Helix is a series of scenarios for Mutant City Blues, written by Robin Laws. The whole thing clocks in at 78 pages, including intro text and all that. This is to say, the scenarios are compact. I’ll lay it out on the table; this is a good thing. If you’ve read my review of Mutant City Blues, you’ll know that I greatly appreciate the design concepts presented. Hard Helix keeps those up. It’s a supplement packed with content from beginning to end. Robin doesn’t waste words, here.
The first adventure is Hard Helix, something of a political exercise. It has a relatively large cast, and sets up some interesting ‘canon’ characters for the setting. If anything, the scenario is good to establish the game world with more specifics than the core book.
The second is The Vanishers, an investigation into a super-powered mob family that robs a jewelry store. There’s read aloud text for a cheesy ‘cash for gold’ group that really helps to set the stage, it also gives enough of a primer on the way a mafia group works without being info-dumpy and condescending.
The third is Super Squad, which presents the characters with a group of corrupt super police. In addition to the normal investigation steps, this scenario has the characters intervene and try to manage a riot, which is an aspect of police work I rarely see addressed in RPGs.
Lastly is Cell Division, a more diverse scenario presenting a group of mutant supremacist terrorists.
As I said, no words wasted. Background information for these scenarios is a couple of paragraphs at most. I could see running these kits with very little – or no – preparation. The kits come with clues, twists, suspects, everything right there. Since they run about fifteen pages each, they’re a breeze to just read through and digest. Also, each scenario has a quick reference for all the various NPCs and their basic roles. That’s super useful. There’s some nice rules additions to suit the various scenes, including more complicated driving and automatic weapon fire rules, these are simple but interesting enough to add something to the scene, and the Gumshoe system as a whole. On top of it all, Robin’s offered a chart that shows the various investigative abilities, and how much they’re used in the scenarios. This allows you to cater character creation to the scenarios. Kudos.
Gumshoe is a system that does one thing very well: Handle investigation stories. Hard Helix was written to accommodate that. If you’re interested in Mutant City Blues, and you want a strong introduction to the types of stories it’s good at, Hard Helix is a great supplement. In pure written content, it’s a 5/5. The art’s passable, nothing I’d write home about (2/5.) While it’s not full of flowery text to engage the reader, it does its job very well, and it doesn’t waste space. The one thing I think it does very well is show you the flow of a Gumshoe story, which is one thing I’m not sure Gumshoe products do on their outsets. The scenarios do exactly what they set out to do.
Review by David Hill