Essence20 Field Guide to Action & Adventure Review

Published: June 28, 2023 10:00 AM /

Reviewed By:

A screenshot of the Essence20 Field Guide to Action & Adventure book on a gaming table.

Last year, Renegade Game Studios released three TTRPGs. Each of them were based around three different beloved properties: Power Rangers, GI Joe, and Transformers. In addition, each TTRPG was created using the studio's Essence20 system. Because of this, the imagination of players and Game Masters went wild. Since everything used the same rules, this meant these worlds can crossover. The Essence20 Field Guide to Action & Adventure not only provides resources for these epic crossovers, but some must-have tools for Game Masters.

What is the Essence20 Field Guide to Action & Adventure?

The Essence20 Field Guide to Action & Adventure is a 283-page Essence20 sourcebook. Two of the book's chapters provides brand new player options, including rules on mixing and matching elements from different Essence20 RPGs.

The book also provides extensive resources for Essence20 Game Masters. Four of the book's chapters include rules on setting up a crossover campaign, as well as how to create unique scenes, challenges, and threats. Finally, the book contains a prewritten crossover adventure.

Artwork from the Essence20 Field Guide to Action & Adventure featuring a ninja with a bow firing at a White Ranger with a Cybertronian in the background
With the right table, this is possible now.

What new player options are in the Essence20 Field Guide to Action & Adventure?

Understandably, the rules for crossovers takes up most of the new rules in the Essence20 Field Guide to Action & Adventure. The first section explains how various Origins, Influences, and Perks can be used interchangeably. The book does a great job illustrating the different franchises are more alike than at first glance. Multiple examples are given of characters that can be represented with different elements. Snake Eyes can have the Tragic Origin from Power Rangers due to his backstory. A non-cybertronian character can take the Former Senator influence from Transformers and just remove all references to Cybertron in the flavor text. The list goes on.

As for what Perks can be used in crossovers, they are broken up into three groups. Universal Perks can be used interchangeably with no trouble (Acute Sense, Fast, Nose For Trouble, etc.). Adaptable Perks can be used but the GM will need to explain the flavor or adjust some of the benefits. A Power Ranger taking Cross-Training from GI Joe is doable, but the GM would have to work out how and why the PC gained those benefits. Finally, there are Setting Specific Perks which can only be taken by characters tied to a specific group and setting. These Perks can only be applied to a character within that setting. For example, if a GM wants to run a straightforward GI Joe campaign, PCs with vehicle alt-modes would clash with the tone.

Artwork from the Essence20 Field Guide to Action & Adventure showing GI Joe, Cobra, Autobots and Decepticons fighting one another.
Cybertronians count as cover. They're also resistant.

The most complex of these crossover PC rules lies with mixing and matching Roles. Roles are the closest thing to character classes Essence20 has, and all of them draw heavily from their respective source material. As such combining the benefits of different Roles can be exciting for a crossover campaign, but can be difficult to implement. The Essence20 Field Guide to Action & Adventure has rules for crossover Roles, and breaks it down in an extensive step-by-step process.

Part of this process involves removing or adding Faction Perks. Faction Perks are abilities given to PCs at level 1 and are greatly tied to their faction. For example, Power Rangers' Faction Perks are the ability to morph, have power weapons, and summon Zords. This is done so you can potentially make a character with the benefits of a Role from one setting, but still have it work in another.

Artwork from the Essence20 Field Guide to Action & Adventure, featuring an archer in ranger armor, a Joe with Cybertronian parts, and a cybertronian in sleek armored plate
Well, I hope they're on our side.

A great personal example was a custom character I made for a Power Rangers campaign. I wanted to make someone that had some military background while still having him fit the tone of the campaign. So, after consulting with the GM, I took the Vanguard Role from GI Joe then consulted this book on how to adapt him to a Power Rangers campaign. The result was a unique Power Ranger PC that had the benefits of a Joe, but could still morph, shoot lasers, and help form a megazord.  It's a great system, one that can easily support future RPGs and supplements.

Finally, the Essence20 Field Guide to Action & Adventure contains some brand new player options. A few of these are made to encourage more crossover potential like the Cybertronian With Attitude Influence or the Gridthropologist Origin. Others are just really great player options in their own right like the Strategist Origin or the Escapist and Skeptic Influences.

A page insert of the Skeptic Influence from the Essence20 Field Guide to Action & Adventure.
Giant robot dinosaurs? Ancient snake people? I don't think they exist.

But the options that really spark the imagination are brand new Perks and Factions. Some of these allow for more exotic character builds. Organic Energon lets non-Cybertronians have an Energon Pool. Personal Power Supply lets non-Power Rangers have Personal Power and access to Grid Powers. There's even a Perk that lets Autobot Power Rangers convert into their Zord as an alt-form. As for Factions, these are organizations that, if the GM allows it, introduces more worldbuilding potential. These include the self-explanatory Morphormers and Gridlock, a covert private organization dedicated to stopping criminal syndicates from using Morphin Grid technology for personal reasons.

Finally, there is the new Envoy Role. Envoys are diplomats, smooth talkers, and manipulators. In fact, they can easily become mediators between different groups that usually butt heads during a crossover. Not only is it a great support Role for any Essence20 campaign, it can really give players with a knack for talking through problems to shine.

Artwork from the Essence20 Field Guide to Action & Adventure featuring Arcee, Zordon, Cover Girl, Roadblock, and the Mighty Morphin Pink and Red Rangers.
Okay, so how do we get to an alien planet again?

What new GM tools are in the Essence20 Field Guide to Action & Adventure?

The Essence20 Field Guide to Action & Adventure is essential for GMs. A sizable chunk of the book's pages focuses on the many logistical hurdles that comes with planning a crossover campaign. Some of these are just great quick references for tone, progression, and style of all three properties. Power Rangers is a superhero series. GI Joe is a pulpy military fantasy. Transformers is a sci-fi space opera. Because of that, you have to be very deliberate in what elements you introduce. It's a subject I have covered extensively in the past. In addition, there is plenty of material regarding how extensive the crossover should be. Is it a one and done? How much will each property influence and affect the other? There is even a section all about consulting with your players on whether or not they even want to do a crossover.

But the biggest draw for GMs has to be a whole chapter dedicated to Threat creation. This is the first Essence20 supplement to include these rules. And if you like making original villains and challenges, this is a must-have. The rules break down everything from Essence Scores to skill assignments to how much damage a Threat should deal based on Threat Level. The book even separates the rules for creating Threats unique to all three settings: Grown monsters, unique Battledress and Vehicle creation, and Enemy Energon pools respectively. If you were let down by official (or missing) statblocks for certain franchise favorites, you now have the tools to make them yourself.

Finally, if you're a less experienced GM, the Essence20 Field Guide to Action & Adventure contains great supplementary material. These include great GM advice like the structure of a good adventure (hook, action, escalation, resolution, etc.) as well as good advice to raise stakes as a GM. There are even optional rules and alternative uses for Story Points. Personal stand outs are the Size Resistance rule, which makes certain targets immune to damage from an attacker two sizes smaller than them, and the ability for Autobots to combine with a Ranger team's megazord temporarily.

The Essence20 Field Guide to Action & Adventure book on a table spread that includes the core rulebooks for Power Rangers, GI Joe, and Transformers
These core rulebooks are now supplements for one another and I love it.

Should I Buy The Essence20 Field Guide to Action & Adventure?

If you're interested in crossing over some of your favorite Essence20 RPGs, I highly recommend the Essence20 Field Guide to Action & Adventure. Not only does it open up more player options, it can provide the sorts of adventures only a crossover can have. If you're a GM that wants to make the most of the Essence20 system, then this is a must-have as well.

The copy of the Essence20 Field Guide to Action & Adventure used in this review was purchased by the author.

Review Summary

Ever wanted characters and concepts from different Essence20 RPGs to mix? The secrets to how are in the Essence20 Field Guide to Action & Adventure. (Review Policy)


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