Renegade Game Studios recently released a new Essence20 sourcebook for the Power Rangers RPG. The book is titled Beneath the Helmet and the main goal was to help flesh out your table’s Power Rangers adventures with things for the player characters’ alter egos. Inside, GMs and players will also find three new roles, gear and enemies from Dino Charge and Dino Thunder, new downtime rules, rules for creating a home base, and more. Renegade was kind enough to supply me with a hard copy of the book for this review, but all the thoughts below are my own. You can purchase your own copy for an MSRP of $45 ($30 for PDF) from your favorite game stores.

Beneath the Helmet presents new story opportunities for teenagers with attitude in any Power Rangers Roleplaying Game campaign. How does your Ranger balance saving the world with pop quizzes, performance reviews, and the challenges of everyday life? And what happens when your principal or boss is more of a monster than they appear?

When Beneath the Helmet was announced, I was so excited. A key part of Power Rangers is seeing how the Rangers’ alter egos are actual people and live in the world. They are not Power Rangers fighting Rita, Mesogog, etc. 24/7. They do community service, enjoy hobbies, work jobs, etc. I am happy to report that Beneath the Helmet does a fantastic job of helping GMs create those moments for your players. It does such a good job, that I am of the opinion that the entirety of Chapter 4: Challenges a Flying Kick Can’t Solve from Beneath the Helmet should have been included in the Core Rulebook.

In the Core Rulebook, the Downtime mechanic is given approximately 1.25 pages and that’s essentially all that we get for running scenes outside of morphing and fighting monsters. As I previously mentioned, the alter ego is a huge part of Power Rangers which is why Beneath the Helmet is invaluable to a table and really should have had that content incorporated into the Core Rulebook or at the very least, released much closer to the Core Rulebook. Downtime gets expanded on for about 5.5 pages with guidelines of how to approach downtime as well as seven goals for downtime and how those work to help drive characters and stories. That’s not even part of the aforementioned chapter that I said should have been included in the Core Rulebook.

Chapter 4 covers so much important information. It provides guidelines for running and creating alter ego story moments. It also has more detailed tips for what should be done during your group’s Session 0 and how a GM needs to track the in-game time. The chapter even includes Threat Blocks for potential NPC threats for the ‘Mundane Story Arcs’ (their term for the alter ego stories) such as a bully, cultist, or anti-Ranger politician. I devoured that chapter when reading through Beneath the Helmet because of how important it felt.

There is more to Beneath the Helmet though. The three new roles for players are Aqua, Graphite, and Dark Rangers. Aqua is a variant of Blue from the Core Rulebook that basically replaces all the tech stuff with science. I personally think this is a misnomer as all of the abilities are more about natural things such as the weather and environment. Sometimes they use flavor text to talk about how you use scientific equations to accomplish it, but it feels less like it’s about science and more like it’s about nature. Yes, I understand that many sciences are about nature, but that’s not what I think about when you say “Science Power Ranger.”

Meanwhile, Graphite is a variant of Silver and, this is a big pro, Renegade included the entirety of the Silver Ranger’s information here so you are not dependent on owning Across the Stars in order to play as a Graphite Ranger. One thing that I am not a huge fan of regarding the Graphite Ranger is that it is written and described as a role for players who aren’t regularly at sessions. It sounds like a good idea, but depending on the group it could be very frustrating because the Graphite Ranger may be available to play on a given week but the story hasn’t gotten to a point for them to appear. Then, when the story does get to that point, the Graphite Ranger can’t make it. To me it seems like good intentions but a real nightmare to actually implement.

Third, the Dark Ranger. I know that the Dark Ranger is a fan favorite and basically it is designed to be a more morally ambiguous character. The player can always make the Dark Ranger a good guy, but they use powers like Terror, Spite, and even have a menacing glare. I can see how some people will use this to great effect in telling fantastic stories, but can’t help but feel like many will just create edgelords to use as an excuse for being a jerk. Of the three new roles, I think Dark Ranger is the one that does interest me the most although one or two of the Aqua Ranger abilities are cool like Elemental Storm.

Possibly my second favorite thing about Beneath the Helmet is more content that is related to the alter egos: home bases. There are guidelines for creating a home base that the characters use. It can vary wildly from somewhere like SPD headquarters to Hailey’s Cyber Cafe from Dino Thunder. When your group creates a base (something to consider during Session 0), there’s quite a bit to consider. The book guides you through creating your own base including describing what it is/how it looks, identifying any NPCs there, features such as Fun or Mobile, and Drawbacks including Exposed and Uncool. This is great because it feels very Power Rangers and can help the GM come up with interesting story hooks.

Another pair of interesting features include Team Bonuses and Form Perks. Team Bonuses are unique for every Ranger team and could include things like Super Dino Mode for the Dino Thunder Rangers. Unfortunately, they only include two Team Bonuses in this book, Dino Thunder and Mighty Morphin. I wish that they included a few more from previously added teams and even Dino Charge which is introduced in Beneath the Helmet. They do mention that you can use Form Perks as a Team Bonus, but Form Perks are written more on an individual level. Form Perks are things like abilities for being infused with Cheetah DNA like in Beast Morphers, the Ptera Scream from Dino Thunder, or being able to use your Wind Ninja powers to burrow like Dustin in Ninja Storm. I think in a pinch it works to use Form Perks as Team Bonuses, but I think they could’ve included more dedicated Team Bonuses or even a guide on crafting a Team Bonus since it is supposed to be what makes the Ranger team unique from others.

The last big thing I want to talk about is that there is a good section about character motivation. Everyone playing (GM included) should read that section before creating a character in my opinion. Maybe even read it together. It’s about 2.5 pages long and just helps talk about how a character needs motivation and how you need to take care in planning out their motivation so that it can serve the story. GMs are also advised to use the character motivations for story moments as that can increase player investment and engagement which then leads to a better experience for everyone at the table.

The rest of Beneath the Helmet adds new materials for other mechanics. There are new origins and influences for character creation, contacts that your team of Rangers can use to help their mission, new threats to face, and new gear including weapons and Zords. There is also some extra information about energems and dino chargers if you want to use them.

If you play the Power Rangers RPG, Beneath the Helmet is a necessity in my opinion. I do think a lot of the information should have been released earlier (if not in the Core Rulebook) and that timing is a big reason for me docking points from the score. The other main reason is the (in my opinion) weak introduction of Team Bonuses. Also, why do these books not have indexes in the back?

Tommy Williams

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Power Rangers RPG Beneath the Helmet — GeekTyrant