Battle Armor II: Bigger, Tougher, Cooler
Interactive Design Adventures (IDA)
Authors: Owen K.C. Stephens
Page count: 26 (including front and back covers, credits, OGL, and stand-ups).
Price: $5 at RPGNow or DriveThru RPG
Battle Armor II: Bigger, Tougher, Cooler is a book of power armor. It presents a dozen suits of powered armor ready for insertion into a d20 future-style game (or a d20 pulp-style game). In addition to the armor, there are a handful of new items and weapons available as well. Overall, it is a decent product.
Battle Armor II: Bigger, Tougher, Cooler begins with an introduction that compares battle-armored warriors to the knights of old. It also includes a tip on keeping the balance between the units in the book and other armor types in a game.
Following the introduction is a section on definitions specific to the document. This includes notes on composite materials for armors, increasing the cost of futuristic versions of older weapons, and details specific to the armor units (accessories such as weapon and equipment mounts).
After this are the explanations for the entries in the armor descriptions (Defense, armor check, move, and such). This also includes a brief sidebar on CR adjustments for foes garbed in power or battle armor.
Battle Armor II: Bigger, Tougher, Cooler presents each unit in a full-page format, with some taking multiple pages. Each has standard entries, such as Defense, movement rate, max Dex, armor check, etc. Each suit of armor has an "Abilities" entry – this details the special items and functions of the armor. If a type of armor provides low-light vision, darkvision, environmental support, unique equipment, and so forth, it is listed here, with some entries explained further in the armor text.
Each unit lists a power source with duration. This is a good feature. I've seen more than a few games where the power armor units all effectively have an indefinite power supply. Some of the units in Battle Armor II: Bigger, Tougher, Cooler have these indefinite supplies, but others have a limited amount of juice, like the Cavalier with its 6-hour battery.
Each armor unit includes a Progress Level, Purchase DC, and background information, along with text explaining additional or unusual capabilities. The background information can be altered, ignored, or used as is with little effort. Game masters should have an easy time adjusting the details to pit their particular worlds.
A note about Strength augmentation: Many of the units in Battle Armor II: Bigger, Tougher, Cooler provide the wearer with augmented Strength. This comes in two types – a fixed Strength, or a boost. A suit with a fixed Strength might provide a score of 20. The operator might have a Strength of 10, or a Strength of 30, but while using the armor, his Strength is 20.
A suit that provides a boost increases the operator's Strength by the listed amount. For example, a suit might provide a +4 Strength bonus. Thus, an operator with as 10 Strength functions as if possessing a 14 Strength while wearing the armor.
This is a good idea – I've always thought that power armor should have this distinction. However, this needs additional rules. For instance, if a suit provides a +4 bonus to Strength, what is the maximum Strength it can achieve before suffering damage? A +4 bonus used by a 10 Strength character isn't going to put much strain on the armor system, but put that +4 bonus on a creature with a Strength of 30 or 40 (probably not likely to happen, but it should be accounted for) and I imagine the system will strain when the full Strength is tested.
To go right along with that, what is the upper limit on a suit with a fixed Strength? If a suit has a Strength of 20, and you have an operator with a Strength of 40, then when he goes to perform a feat of Strength, his muscles are going to fight those of the suit. I'm working on the assumption that characters with the applicable armor feats know how to not strain their systems, but what about the non-proficient? Regardless of proficiency, this needs rules. A note – I do not have Battle Armor I, so perhaps this is covered in that product. If so, a reference is in order.
Some of the more interesting units are:
Cavalier: This pulp-style suit of armor resembles iron plates welded to a frame. In a pulp style game, this is something you might see on the villain's primary henchmen/enforcer or special government operatives. Despite its primitive appearance, this is an effective unit.
Datasuit: This armor provides minimal protection, but will see a lot of use with computer-based characters. The armor is essentially a powerful supercomputer that provides bonuses when interacting with other computer systems. It includes a unique weapon designed to provide access to isolated, physically hardened systems. This is one of the more interesting suits in Battle Armor II: Bigger, Tougher, Cooler.
Gatecrasher: Skulls. This armor has a lot of skulls. The face is skull-like; there are skulls on the chest, skulls on the waist, and skulls on the knees. The Gatecrasher is a very stout, mean-looking suit of armor that provides superior protection, scares opponents, and is very good at breaking things. Things in this instance include buildings and vehicles. To top it off, it can fly. Not for long, but it can do it.
Myrmidon Power Armor: The description of the Myrmidon states that focuses on two areas – strength augmentation and survivability. This is a true statement. The Myrmidon provides more protection than the Gatecrasher, increases Strength, and allows for a 3d8 damage punch. It can also temporarily increase this damage to 6d8. The Myrmidon is not cheap, but if a group contains a Strength-based melee specialist, they would be best advised to pool their resources and get that man this suit. He will then break things good.
Outlander Insertion Armor: This is a light suit of armor with the primary feature of a displacement field. This makes it very difficult to strike the operator. While an interesting concept, I think this will see use more because people think it's cool, rather than because it's useful.
Stand-Ins: After the descriptions of the armor, there is a page with 12 Stand-Ins – little miniature-like paper figures, like those in the old MSHRPG. These have a front and back view, and can be printed (I assume cardstock would be the best choice), and used as minis. This little bonus also acts as a commercial for the company's full sets of Stand-Ins. These are for people who like their map egos to look cool and/or distinct; in my group, they would end up as scraps before a single session ended. These are probably useful as long as your group does not consist of mini-stomping barbarians.
Layout and Style
Battle Armor II: Bigger, Tougher, Cooler uses a standard two-column format, with an Arial font – about 8 point. The text has a dense appearance but is still easy to read. As with many products, the outer margin of the pages has a design pattern of a sort that is maybe an inch wide. The inner margin is a little wide, even if the book is intended for printing. The space could be utilized more efficiently. There are a few typos in the text, but no major eyesores.
On page 19, the OGRE description ends with
"Sometimes, such long-forgotten suits manage to pop open when some local is under attack,"
It seems like there is more to this statement, but there is no additional text.
The art in Battle Armor II: Bigger, Tougher, Cooler is functional but uninspired. The front and back covers have colored art. There is one piece of colored art on the table of contents page. Other than these, the interior art consists of simple line drawings that clearly illustrate the armor. The art is generic – it lacks a distinct style, and resembles the art from The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe – the three-ring binder version.
The art, graphic elements, and cover text is protected content. The stats, names, and descriptions of the armor units are open content. Battle Armor II: Bigger, Tougher, Cooler has a simple and generous OGC declaration.
Battle Armor II: Bigger, Tougher, Cooler is an open document, allowing for copy and paste, page extraction, and so on. However, it lacks bookmarks, and even a small pdf should have bookmarks.
Battle Armor II: Bigger, Tougher, Cooler has a nice variety of armor types, making it useful for several campaign models. It does a good job of using and expanding on the toolkit approach to armor and mecha in the MSRD. The formatting could be improved, the art could use some shading, and an editor should triple check it, but otherwise, it is a good product.