I'm a little late to the party on this one since it came out in 2010 but I read some good things about it and decided to pick up a copy.
- It's a superhero setting that focuses on "Heroic Earth" but also covers cosmic elements
- Stats are for Mutants and Masterminds 2nd Edition
- It's the second edition of the book
- It's available on DTRPG here.
I can best describe Heroic Earth as a world where DC and Marvel character homages (and others) are freely intermixed along with nods to other related elements. For example, the son of the big American hero (a sort of Captain America/Iron Man combo) ends up in the role of what is effectively Cobra Commander from GI Joe. It feels as though it has been used in actual play and that some of the answers in the book come from questions that arose during games.
The book covers all the things you would need to run in the universe:
- There's a detailed history of what happened when that covers about 10 pages
- Info on the world covers about 20 pages and includes real countries, comic book cities, and things like Atlantis, the hollow world, and Super-Alcatraz.
- Space and other dimensions is covered in about 10 pages
- There are about 50 pages divided into chapters covering sources of super power, how supers work in this world (from the point of view of the Batman-analogue), and organizations both good and bad
- The last 100 pages cover individual heroes and villains
The things I liked:
- It's a lived-in world. Heroes and villains have been around for a long time and have impacted the world for good and for ill.
- The various ages of comic books and the attitudes associated with them are used in-universe to refer to generations of supers and have ended in violent confrontations at times. I thought it was a nice touch
- The default assumption is that myth and fiction from history are all true. this means Gilgamesh is the first superhero, the goddess Athena is the Wonder Woman of the setting, Merlin is a part of the magical side of things, Frankenstein's monster and Dracula are part of the world, Captain Nemo was an Atlantean, and Holmes and Moriarty have had a lasting impact through legacy organizations.
Things I didn't: There are quite a few characters presented with no illustration. Many are shown, the big time characters in particular, and I know art can be expensive, but it really helps with a super hero game to have pictures. I know I've been spoiled by the full-color heavily illustrated books of the last ten years or so from M&M to Icons but it's really become a standard for me. That's really my only complaint.
The level of information here hits that sweet spot for me - enough to inspire and run a game but not so much that the details smothers the life out of the setting. For example - the chapter on space has information on the power groups, agendas, and history of the major players. It's enough to answer questions from earth-bound players and enough to set up a background for a character with an alien origin, but it doesn't drill down into maps of the galaxy and statistics for a Thran space cruiser. It's exactly what I'm looking for in a super-earth setting book.
So how will I use this book?
Well, I probably won't run it as it's own setting for one of my campaigns. This is mainly because they are already rolling in their own settings. BUT - as a superhero GM you never know when one of your players will send the whole team to a parallel earth and this book gives me an easy option if that happens - famous heroes and villains, history, geography - all the things I would need on the fly to make a believable world.
Quite a few of the organizations look like they would be easy to drop in to an existing world so there's a chance some of them appear in my games. Heroes and villains and new alien races are also always welcome.
If one of the Apprentices wanted to run a supers-game I would probably hand them this one because it is both coherent and concise - one book covers it all! That makes it easier for a new GM to get a handle on. It's a different perspective than Freedom City or Emerald City in that it's not a city-focused book - it's a world-focused book.
I would also recommend it to someone who's not looking for a massively detailed setting and who doesn't want to have to create one on their own, who wants a solid super-setting to refer to without being out-knowledged by the local Marvel-guru, DC-savant, or Freedomverse-nerd. Here's a setting where someone could run some games - in any system, really - and have some names and details ready to go when the heroes run into an agency, or he needs a bad guy network to drop in, or just wants some easy reference material on what happened before the game started.
It's a very useable book, as a whole, or in parts. For more information on the setting there has been a massive ongoing discussion on the Atomic Think Tank for years (now archived) and on the newer Ronin Army Forum.