Prowlers and Paragons is a tabletop game that attempts to make everyone think it’s a D&D retro clone but is actually a superhero game with an original, if not terribly innovative, system that is more than worthy of standing on its own merits. As a superhero game, it does a good job of providing a framework for highly-narrative adventures and, while it may not have the boon of a major comics publisher’s licensing deal it is, in my opinion, still as good as any of the alternatives, if not better in certain ways.
Prowlers and Paragons is highly narrative in focus, and as such it doesn’t go into incredible amounts of mechanical detail, something that I think makes it work a lot better. It’s got a loose, at best, structure, but it is also focuses on its subject in such a way that it doesn’t really need a whole lot of build-up and arbitrary crunch to do what it does, with a carefully designed set of powers, abilities, and core attributes that adequately emulate both a generic modern setting with only slightly above average protagonists and more powerful cape-wearing adventures.
Mechanically, when I was reading through Prowlers and Paragons it seemed to be most similar to the D6 system, which is seeing a resurgence in popular use, though with successes instead of a sum, something that I think adds greatly to the style of the game, though the method of counting evens as successes as opposed to just using 4-6 is a little bit against the grain. Still, it’s a working system that feels like it’s mechanically designed to allow for the subject matter.
My two criticisms for the system are that while it’s an interesting interpretation, it’s not really doing anything that hasn’t been done before; it’s clearly something capable of standing on its own and it doesn’t owe blind allegiance to any particular other system, at least as far as I can tell, but it’s also lacking any particularly new or distinct feature that makes it anything beyond what prior games have offered; it also lacks a certain degree of flexibility in characters, and balancing is a bit of a concern-some powers are available with very similar analogues, others have the opportunity to quickly become unchecked if the GM doesn’t pay close enough attention to players’ characters, something which should happen, but often doesn’t with busy GM’s, and the system is expansive enough that there are enough potential exploitative builds to slip past an inattentive or poorly practiced GM.
Looking at the writing, Prowlers and Paragons is actually rather manageable; it’s got very little fluff, but it has some examples and humor inserted into the text so that it doesn’t become too overbearingly difficult. It doesn’t really have any major memorable fluff, though, in part because it does a very good job at essentially allowing people to recreate legally distinct but visually similar adventures to those of characters owned by large comic distributors, but it’s also not particularly bland or boring; it may not have fun stuff scattered throughout but it enjoys itself enough that it’s not bland and can mess around a little.
Artistically, the book actually is pretty satisfying. My only real gripe with it is that there was at least one picture in which aliasing was an issue on the art; it tends to just mirror and repeat its page wrappers, but they change out every chapter so you’re not staring at the same thing for the whole prolonged read. It brings back fond memories of comics for me, which is enough to make it successful. There’s a couple of typesetting issues throughout, but these are largely inconsequential in light of the fact that it still does a very good job getting the vibe of a superhero adventure down without becoming illegible or cramming it down the reader’s throat.
So, in short: Prowlers and Paragons doesn’t innovate, but it’s also a very solid product that does its job well and doesn’t waste time. There’s a few minor flaws with it, but for the most part it only loses points on account of the fact that it’s just not anything new-it’s a technically solid execution of a design that I’d feel comfortable recommending to anyone looking for an entry to the genre.
If you’re interested, you can get Prowlers and Paragons at DriveThruRPG.