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Lords and Lands: a Witcher TRPG Expansion
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/04/2020 05:29:13

An Endzeitgeist.com review

Okay, so, first things first: Since getting The Witcher RPG review done in time for the start of the Netflix show, and since I am pretty OCD, this review was moved up in my reviewing queue as well.

What is this? It is a GM’s screen for The Witcher RPG, with a 4-page pdf that includes the player-facing side, and one 4-page pdf for the GM-facing side. The player-facing side features, unsurprisingly, only artworks. This front is also included as a jpg.

The screen is accompanied by the “Lords & Lands”-booklet – which clocks in at 16 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 12 pages of content.

My review is based on the electronic version of this supplement – I don’t own the physical screen (since it is pretty expensive), and thus can’t comment on durability, material, etc.

All right, so, let’s start with the screen: On the first page, we have a list of actions you can take on the left-hand side; Default DCs and modifiers/light levels are included alongside ranges, damage locations and common cover tables.

The second page has all the information regarding healing, wounds and magical fumbles. The third page contains the rules for fixing broken gear…and also the basic guidelines for monsters per encounter, which struck me as odd. Currency conversion? Makes sense. The table for awarding I.P.? Less so, since it’s ultra generic anyways. The screen has a few peculiarities: For one, it sports several text blocks that are hard to parse in-game, and of dubious value regarding their information:

“By declaring a Fast Draw at the start of the round, you raise your initiative by +3 for that round by taking a -3 to your attack. However, you must make an attack and you cannot benefit from aiming or any other aim-related ability. If your weapon is not drawn, you may draw it as part of this action.”

You can’t tell me that you can’t present this information in a way that is easier to parse. That’s also a lot of real estate for a core rule.

Speaking of real estate: Know what’s not on the screen? A table that tells you what plants/critter parts, etc.contain Fulgur, Queberith, etc. Yes, this’d take up room – and there is none.

Know what we get instead of these actually useful things? An artwork on every page of the inside of the GM-screen.

-.-

I like artworks as much as the next guy, but these artworks are USELESS, and GM-screens are all about…UTILITY. Combine all artworks, and we have almost an entire (!!!) page of real estate LOST. That is a most puzzling, and imho rather bass-ackwards design decision.

Speaking of which: Puzzlingly, we begin the booklet with everyman NPC stats BEFORE we get the player-facing material – that makes no sense, and if you’re like me and prefer that players not have this information, it will annoy you to no end.

After this, we get the new halfling race, who receive +1 to Athletics, +2 to Wilderness Survival when calming, taming or controlling animals, and +5 to Resist Magic AND they may check to avoid mental control, even when this would usually not be allowed. Halflings can’t benefit from the positive effects of Witcher potions. They also enjoy near universal equality, and are even tolerated in the xenophobic North. Okay, does this mean halflings can see through e.g. Afan’s Mirror? Does it exclude them from using Vaults of Knowledge? I have no idea. In the absence of a proper descriptor in the base engine, this needs clarification. The write-up does not note how many siblings haflings are supposed to have; I assume human default, but it feels odd to me.

The booklet also features a new profession, the Noble, a profession that REALLY should have been in the core book. The noble’s defining signature skill is Notoriety, which is also added to the Reputation in their own and allied countries, half the value in hostile territories. I assume rounded down here, but the pdf doesn’t state as much. The skill tree includes gaining servants and an estate; really cool: There is a means to dabble in skills: If you invest in Dabble, you get two skill points in skills you have 0 ranks in, making them the jack-of-all-trades, if desired. One of the progressions of the skill tree focuses more on combat utility, on armored mounted combat, to be precise – so if you wanted to make a pompous knight from Toussaint? There you go.

But wait, estate? Yeah, there is a very basic one-page estate-building engine here, with 8 additions provided, ranging from barracks to greenhouse, etc. The estate is weird, in that it’ll be either overpowered, or nigh useless: If the party is moving a lot, it won’t matter as much – or at all, if the war engulfs it. What happens if an estate is lost? Can nobles be excommunicated by e.g. our friends of the flaming rose and lose their estate? Conversely, if nothing goes wrong and you play a gritty witcher game of survival, scrounging stuff together, etc., you get free resources without limits. The estate’s benefits should most assuredly have a cooldown or the like.

On the other hand, there are no costs to maintaining an estate, which make it feel somewhat cosmetic, like it’s generating materials ex nihilo. There are means to enhance locks to DC 18 and 20, but annoyingly, these do not further enhance the security for the torture chamber or secret room, if present – this can result, funnily enough, in the torture chamber having a worse lock than the rest of the estate. The low maximum DC here is also a bit lame. Where is the means to make a dungeon? A dimeritium-based magic-creature/mage-confinement cell? Where is the banquet hall that enhances the Host ability from another part of the skill tree? This is all so half-done, so opaque.

The final section of the book is probably the best – we get stats for flails, lamia, whips, etc, as well as 4 new alchemical items, which include berserker’s brew, celestine, cadaverine solution and summer ointment. From jars of leeches and masquerade masks to false coins, plague masks and vials of gut worms, we also get a couple of cool items regarding other gear – and yes, the weapons come with proper crafting diagram information, including costs for the diagrams.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level; on a rules-language level, I was less excited by what I found here. Layout adheres to the game’s two-column full-color standard, and the booklet sports two full-page full-color artworks, as well as a couple of smaller ones. The booklet comes fully bookmarked, in spite of its brevity.

Cody Pondsmith’s Witcher GM-screen and its associated booklet leave me in an odd place: I don’t think the GM-screen does a bad job, but neither does it do a good one. The amount of wasted space is strange, and the inclusion of these real-estate consuming textblocks of basic rules feels even stranger. The booklet suffers from the nonsensical decision of front-loading NPC-stats. I was not impressed by the halflings. The noble profession should have been in the core book, and the estate-running rules, sorry to say, are a joke – detailed estate rules could have easily filled a booklet of the entire size of this supplement. Easily.

This leaves me with only the NPCs and items to be excited about, which isn’t exactly a lot.

Don’t get me wrong, The Witcher RPG needed such an expansion – but it needed a proper one. Can you play Thronebreaker-like games with this? NO. Does it have a robust “command your own units”-engine? NO. Does it have proper estate-rules? NO.

This is a flimsy, flimsy and somewhat half-hearted attempt at making estates and Nobles work in the game. If you handwave a lot of things, then this might work for you. It does not work for me. At all.

As a whole, this supplement feels like a patch, like a mini-DLC, and not like one of the CD Projekt RED-variety with tons of content.

This is NOT per se a bad supplement, mind you – but it’s also not even close to being a good one. It doesn’t make me think I need the screen, and the booklet, as noted, failed to impress me.

All in all, my final verdict can’t exceed 2.5 stars, rounded down.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Lords and Lands: a Witcher TRPG Expansion
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Castle Falkenstein
by Rory H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/19/2020 05:21:42

Ideal purchase in PDF, as the physical book always used to fall apart when you touched it.

Lots of cool ideas, and a terrifically colourful, card based magic system. I like the narrative-based character generation too, and have run some entertaining sessions from it in the past. It was ahead of it's time, for sure. Ultimately, the fairy-tale, faux-Victorian setting isn't may not appeal to everybody. Very much worth buying though, and the updated file makes everything feel quite spectacular again..



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Castle Falkenstein
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Cyberpunk Red Jumpstart Kit
by Roger L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/19/2020 01:30:11

https://www.teilzeithelden.de/2020/02/04/ersteindruck-cyberpunk-red-jumpstart-kit-r-talsorian-games/

Cyberpunk-Fans weltweit erwarten sehnlich das Release von Cyberpunk 2077. Der Rollenspiel-Shooter schreibt die Geschichte des Rollenspiel-Klassikers Cyberpunk 2020 fort, spielt allerdings satte 57 Jahre später. Mit Cyberpunk Red schlägt R. Talsorian die Brücke zwischen dem alten Cyberpunk-Lore und dem kommenden Videospiel und versucht sich zugleich an einem neuen, zeitgemäßen Cyberpunk-Regelwerk.

Mit Cyberpunk Red unternimmt R. Talsorian Games den Versuch, dem 90er-Jahre-System neues Leben einzuhauchen und zugleich sein Lore weiterzuentwickeln – denn immerhin klafft zwischen Cyberpunk 2020, dessen Metaplot im Jahr 2022 endete, und Cyberpunk 2077 eine Story-Lücke von rund 55 Jahren. Cyberpunk RED, dessen Handlung im Jahr 2045 angesiedelt ist, füllt diese Lücke zumindest teilweise und knüpft dabei unmittelbar da an, wo Cyberpunk 2020 endete. Die Spin-Offs CyberGeneration und Cyberpunk V3.0 bleiben alternative Settings ohne Einfluss auf den Kanon.

Die Spielwelt Das Jahr 2045: Der Vierte Konzernkrieg ist vorbei. Ein Vierteljahrhundert, nachdem die Megakonzerne Arasaka und Militech in Firestorm, der Abschlusskampagne zu Cyberpunk 2020, den Globus verwüstet haben, kehrt die Welt immer noch die Scherben zusammen.

Cyberpunk trifft Postapokalypse Auf 28 Seiten beschreibt das Worldbook des Jumpstart Kits in groben Zügen die Spielwelt und Cyberpunks alternative Geschichtsschreibung von 1990 bis 2045. Die Entwicklungen seit dem Konzernkrieg stehen dabei im Mittelpunkt. Auch der Name der Nachkriegs-Ära, der „Time of the Red“, und sogar der Titel Cyberpunk Red führt sich darauf zurück: Eine taktische Atombombe hat 2022 die Innenstadt der ikonischen Cyberpunk-Modellmetropole Night City (vergleichbar etwa mit Seattle im Shadowrun-Universum) dem Erdboden gleichgemacht. Die dabei in die Atmosphäre geschleuderten Partikel sorgen noch 2045 für intensiv rote Sonnenauf- und Untergänge.

Night City ist 2045 übrigens weitgehend wiederaufgebaut, hat mit der Stadt von damals aber nur noch entfernte Ähnlichkeit. Diese Metamorphose ist symptomatisch für die gesamte Welt von Cyberpunk Red, das beim klassischen Cyberpunk-Setting einen Gang herunterschaltet und stattdessen eine ordentliche Portion Wildwest-Flair und Postapokalypse untermischt.

Infolge des Konzernkriegs steht die globalisierte Welt am Abgrund. Internationale Warenströme sind versiegt und das weltumspannende NET wurde von einem Supervirus nahezu vollständig und irreparabel zerstört. Die Megakonzerne sind entweder untergegangen oder haben sich in etliche national operierende „Corpos“ aufgespalten – ohne quasi-staatliche Privilegien, Privatarmeen und uneinnehmbare Firmen-Festungen. Auch viele Staaten sind kollabiert, darunter die USA, deren mehr oder weniger heil gebliebene Überreste an der Ostküste, nun faktisch eine Militärdiktatur, die Kontrolle über den gesetzlosen „wilden Westen“ weitgehend verloren haben.

Power to the Punks Die Intention dahinter ist deutlich und wurde von Mike Pondsmith so auch formuliert: Cyberpunk Red soll klarere Verhältnisse und einen übersichtlicheren Rahmen schaffen. Dabei soll es eine Spielwelt bieten, die mehr Fokus auf lokale Ereignisse und Akteure legt und mehr Freiräume für die eigentlichen Stars des Systems schafft: Die „Edgerunner“ und Cyberpunks, Söldner und Revolverhelden, Nomaden, Rockerboys und Guerilla-Reporter, kurzum die ikonischen Rebellentypen des Cyberpunk-Genres. Die „Time of the Red“ schafft für diese Untergrund-Antihelden deutlich mehr Freiheiten, mehr Spielräume, mehr jagen und weniger gejagt werden.

Dem Durchschnitts-Bürger geht es angesichts des allgemeinen Zerfalls sogar besser als in den 20er-Jahren, dank im Dachgarten gezogenem Gemüse, geklauten Solarkollektoren und irgendwo geplündertem Vorkriegs-Tech. Moderne Kommunikationsgeräte, Waffen, Munition, Cybertech und Fahrzeuge gibt es aber nach wie vor – auf der Straße oder dem Schwarzmarkt, denn reguläre Geschäfte kennt die „Time of the Red“ praktisch nicht mehr.

Wie genau die Spielwelt den Spagat zwischen Untergang und Fortschritt schafft, bleibt unkonkret. Die USA und die restliche Welt werden jeweils nur auf etwas mehr als einer Seite in groben Zügen beschrieben, dazu kommen noch ein paar Seiten Weltgeschichte und ein wenig Fluff, der das Alltagsleben im Jahr 2045 grob umreißt. Vermutlich wird man, um die „Time of the Red“ wirklich verstehen zu können, auf das Grundregelwerk warten müssen.

Die Regeln Wie an mehreren Stellen in den Büchern betont wird, ist das Jumpstart Kit gewissermaßen eine Demo für das kommende Grundregelwerk, vereinfacht und gekürzt, um leichter in das System einsteigen zu können. Allerdings entsteht beim Lesen schnell die Frage, wie hilfreich das Jumpstart Kit für den Einstieg ins eigentliche Cyberpunk Red sein wird, denn an einigen Stellen erwecken Formulierungen den Eindruck, dass bestimmte Regeln womöglich im Grundregelwerk anders funktionieren werden. Es wird aber nicht wirklich transparent gemacht, welche Regeln das sind und wie weitreichend die möglichen Abweichungen sind.

Das Interlock-System Cyberpunk Red verwendet, wie schon Cyberpunk 2020 und auch das The Witcher TRPG, das Interlock-System, das allerdings grundlegend überarbeitet, angepasst und gestrafft wurde. Charaktere basieren auf neun Attributen und einer Reihe von Skills, jeweils mit einem Wert zwischen 0 und 10. Bei Proben werden Attribut und zugehöriger Skill summiert, ein W10 addiert und die Summe mit einem festgelegten Zielwert verglichen. In Konfliktsituationen wird stattdessen direkt vergleichend gewürfelt, der höhere Wurf setzt sich durch.

Das Jumpstart Kit listet insgesamt 22 Skills auf, das Grundregelwerk wird aber deutlich mehr Skills enthalten. Alle Charaktere erhalten bei der Erschaffung Gratis-Ränge in verschiedenen Skills, beispielsweise in „Wahrnehmung“, „Allgemeinbildung“, „Athletik“ und „Waffenloser Kampf“. Für das Jumpstart Kit spielt das aber eigentlich keine Rolle, denn es gibt keine Regeln zur Charaktererschaffung.

Charakterklassen

Cyberpunk Red behält das Klassensystem von Cyberpunk 2020 bei und umfasst neun Charakterklassen, von denen aber nur sechs im Jumpstart Kit spielbar sind: Rockerboy (Musiker und andere Entertainer), Solo (Söldner, Profikiller und andere Kämpfer), Tech (Mechaniker, Bastler und Mediziner), Nomad (Profi-Fahrer und Straßenkrieger à la Mad Max), Fixer (Info-Broker, Hehler und Schmuggler) und Netrunner (Hacker). Im Grundregelwerk wird jede Klasse einen exklusiven Spezial-Skill haben, diese kommen im Jumpstart Kit aber nicht zum Einsatz – mit Ausnahme des Netrunners, dessen Klassenskill ihm das Hacken überhaupt erst ermöglicht.

Zu jeder Charakterklasse enthält das Jumpstart Kit einen fertig ausgearbeiteten Archetypen. Skills, Ausrüstung und Cyberware stehen fest, Einfluss nehmen kann der Spieler auf die Attribute und auf die Persönlichkeit und Vita seines Charakters. Jeder Charakterbogen kommt mit sechs unterschiedlichen Attributs-Blöcken, der Spieler kann sich einen Block aussuchen oder auswürfeln.

Charakterbogen Der vorgefertigte Charakterbogen des Solo-Archetypen mit verschiedenen Attributs-Blöcken und freien Feldern für den Charakterhintergrund.

Mit dem „Lifepath“-Modul kann sich der Spieler außerdem eine Persönlichkeit und eine Lebensgeschichte für seinen Charakter entweder aussuchen oder erwürfeln. Spieltechnische Auswirkungen hat das Modul nicht.

Die Kampfregeln Für Kämpfe verwendet Cyberpunk Red eine weiterentwickelte und deutlich abgespeckte Version des Kampfsystems von Cyberpunk 2020. Vor allem die Regeln zu Automatikfeuer wurden stark vereinfacht und entschärft – pro Angriff treffen in Cyberpunk Red maximal eine Handvoll Kugeln das Ziel. Angriffe laufen ab wie alle anderen Skill-Proben auch der Zielwert von der verwendeten Waffe und der Entfernung zum Ziel ab. Nur Charaktere mit sehr hohem Reflex-Attribut können im Fernkampf aktiv ausweichen, dann wird aus dem Angriffswurf eine vergleichende Probe. Im Nahkampf wird grundsätzlich vergleichend gewürfelt.

CyborgEs gibt zwei Trefferzonen: Kopf und Körper. Kopftreffer sind schwieriger, richten aber mehr Schaden an. Beide Trefferzonen können individuell gepanzert werden. Die Panzerung zählt als passiver Bonus und wird vom erlittenen Waffenschaden abgezogen. Überzähliger Schaden reduziert dann die Lebenspunkte des Charakters. Charaktere, deren Lebenspunkte auf 0 sinken, sterben früher oder später, wenn sie keine Erste Hilfe erhalten.

Die Waffen werden in Klassen eingeteilt, die sich in Schaden, Reichweite und dem Feuermodus unterscheiden. Waffen selbst bleiben abstrakte Platzhalter; spezifische Modelle mit Bild oder Beschreibung stehen nicht zur Wahl.

Cyberware Die vorgefertigten Charaktere (und auch verschiedene NSC) verfügen jeweils über eine Handvoll Cyberware-Implantate, die jeweils bestimmte spieltechnische Boni liefern oder als Waffe eingesetzt werden können. Zu jedem Implantat gibt es eine knappe Beschreibung.

Diese Implantate sind festgelegt: Sich weiter vercybern zu lassen ist im Einsteiger-Regelwerk keine Option.

Netrunning Das weltweite NET ist in der „Time of the Red“ ebenso Geschichte wie der Cyberspace, in dem man gedankenschnell und körperlos herumfliegen konnte. Öffentliche Netzwerke sind beschränkt auf regionale Informationsplattformen auf dem technischen Niveau des heutigen Internets. Das „echte“ NET, in das sich Netrunner mental einstöpseln können, existiert nur noch in Form lokaler Netzwerke.

Wortwörtlich einstöpseln muss sich aber niemand mehr, denn das neue NET ist eine kabellose Augmented-Reality-Umgebung, die der Netrunner durch eine Datenbrille sieht. Eine WiFi-Welt analog zu Shadowrun, in der sich nahezu alles hacken lässt, ist das kabellose NET aber nicht; Hacking bleibt auf Systeme wie Firmennetzwerke beschränkt. Zugangspunkte zu solchen Systemen haben in der Regel eine Reichweite von lediglich sechs Metern. Für die Netrunner heißt das: Keine Hacks mehr vom heimischen Sofa aus, sondern raus an die Front.

Hacken funktioniert nach dem „Fahrstuhl“-System: Computersysteme staffeln sich in übereinander liegende Level, die der Netrunner der Reihe nach von oben nach unten erkundet. Auf jedem Level können dann Dateien und der Zugriff auf Sicherheitssysteme und Ähnliches liegen, aber auch Passwortsperren oder „Black ICE“ (aggressive und potentiell tödliche Verteidigungsprogramme).

Abenteuer Das Jumpstart Kit enthält ein längeres, viereinhalbseitiges Abenteuerszenario sowie als Zugabe drei kürzere Szenarien auf jeweils etwa einer Seite zuzüglich Fluff-Text, die der SL als Grundlage für weitere Abenteuer verwenden kann. R. Talsorian verspricht vorgefertigte Abenteuer, die sich „out of the box“ spielen lassen. Falls man darunter Abenteuer versteht, die so umfassend ausgearbeitet und durchstrukturiert sind, dass sie ohne nennenswerte Vorbereitung und zusätzliche Ausgestaltung spielbar sind, dann ist das eindeutig nicht der Fall. Fehlende Details und Hintergrundinformationen fordern dem Spielleiter viel Improvisationstalent und/oder gründliche Vorarbeit ab – das genaue Gegenteil von „out of the box“. Dass der eigentliche Plot auf Schienen läuft und oft Handlungen der Spieler voraussetzt oder gleich vorwegnimmt, macht es für einen unerfahrenen Spielleiter nicht leichter.

Eins haben die Szenarien im Jumpstart Kit alle gemein: Es sind Schießbuden. Eigentlich in jedem Fall läuft nach kurzer, linearer Einleitung die Lösung auf einen oder mehrere Kämpfe hinaus. Andere Optionen werden oft gar nicht erst erwähnt oder sogar durch das festgeschriebene Verhalten der NSC aktiv ausgeschlossen. Unter diesem Licht betrachtet ist es dann auch nicht verwunderlich, dass ausnahmslos alle vorgefertigten Charaktere vom Rockerboy bis zum Tech schwer bewaffnet und von Kopf bis Fuß solide gepanzert sind.

Erscheinungsbild Umfang Eine Anmerkung vorweg: Die Druckversion des Cyberpunk Red Jumpstart Kit präsentiert sich als Box mit Softcover-Heften, Broschüren und losen Blättern. In der digitalen Version sind die einzelnen Dokumente stattdessen jeweils als separate PDFs enthalten. Da wir für diese Rezension nur die digitale Version vorliegen hatten, können wir zur Qualität der gedruckten Produkte keine Aussagen treffen.

Das Jumpstart Kit umfasst zwei Bücher: Das Worldbook liefert auf 53 Seiten einen Überblick über die Hintergrundwelt von Cyberpunk Red, die Geschichte, ein Profil der Stadt Night City sowie Tipps zum Spielleiten. Außerdem sind hier das Start-Abenteuer und die weiteren Szenarien enthalten. Das 45-Seitige Rulebook enthält die Spielregeln inklusive Kampf- und Netrunning-System sowie einige weitere Erklärungen zur Cyberpunk-Spielwelt. Hinzu kommen die sechs vorgefertigten Charaktere, jeweils mit einer Seite Fluff-Text und Bild und einer Seite Charakterbogen, ein doppelseitiges Handout mit Regel-Kurzübersicht für Spieler und ein vierseitiges Heft für den SL mit Regelübersicht und anderen hilfreichen Tabellen. Alle Dokumente kommen in DIN A4; lediglich das Kartenpaket, mit dem das das Paket abgerundet wird, kommt im A3-Format und enthält vier Bodenpläne: eine generische Straßenecke, ein Stück staubiger Highway, eine Bar und ein Bürogebäude.

Layout

Das gesamte Jumpstart Kit präsentiert sich in Farbe. Das Layout ist klar und nüchtern, aber wenig aufregend. Rot und weiß dominieren das Seitenbild mit hin und wieder eingestreuten Info-Kästen, Zitaten (von denen so einige dem Cyberpunk 2020-Grundregelwerk entnommen sind) oder Illustrationen. Nennenswerte Layout-Schnitzer sind nicht aufgefallen, wohl aber einige Wort-Doppelungen oder Tippfehler.

Die Bebilderung wirkt durch die Bank solide, die Bildqualität ist gut. Die Illustrationen stammen von verschiedenen Künstlern mit ganz unterschiedlichen Stilen, die gezeigten Motive erinnern an Vorlagen von Ghost in the Shell über Elysium und Blade Runner bis hin zu Mad Max.

Sowohl Worldbook als auch Rulebook haben ein Inhaltsverzeichnis, aber keinen Index. Die Regel-Tabellen der Übersichts-Handouts enthalten keine Seitenverweise zum Regelbuch, was dem schnellen Nachschlagen am Spieltisch sicher gutgetan hätte.

Bonus/Downloadcontent Kürzlich ist auf R. Talsorians Homepage das Download-Kurzabenteuer Red Chrome Cargo für das Jumpstart Kit erschienen. Außerdem gibt es auf der Homepage die Developer‘s Logs mit Einblicken in die Entwicklung von Cyberpunk und den Q&A-Podcast Listen Up!, in dem Mike und Cody Pondsmith unter anderem über Fragen zu Cyberpunk Red diskutieren.

Fazit Das Cyberpunk Red Jumpstart Kit ist eine kostenpflichtige Demo – nicht mehr, nicht weniger. Es liefert in aller Kürze einen Einblick in die Spielregeln, die das kommende Grundregelwerk enthalten wird, macht aber keinen Hehl daraus, dass der Großteil eben erst mit diesem Buch erscheinen wird. Das reduzierte Interlock-System ist unkompliziert und dürfte auch für absolute Einsteiger leicht zu erlernen sein. Der Überblick über die Spielwelt hingegen fällt ziemlich grob aus, gerade bei Einsteigern ohne Cyberpunk-Vorerfahrung dürften viele Fragen offen bleiben.

Die im Worldbook enthaltenen Abenteuer-Szenarien machen einen durchaus spielbaren Eindruck, sind aber sehr auf Kampf zugespitzt und nur rudimentär ausgearbeitet – Einsteigerrunden dürften hier schnell überfordert sein. Die enthaltenen Regeln ermöglichen durchaus, auch eigene Szenarien zu spielen, das Regelwerk schränkt die Möglichkeiten aber deutlich ein. Eine längere Kampagne abwechslungsreich zu gestalten dürfte deshalb schwierig werden, auch mangels Ausbau- und Entwicklungsmöglichkeiten für die Charaktere.

Für die ersten Schritte und eine grobe Orientierung in der neuen „Time of the Red“ und der nächsten Edition des Cyberpunk-Rollenspiels ist das Jumpstart Kit aber allemal geeignet und es macht neugierig auf das kommende Grundregelwerk. Ein Spielwert über einige Spielabende hinaus ist aber eher nicht in Sicht, zumal die Box mit dem Erscheinen des Grundregelwerks weitgehend obsolet werden dürfte. Den Preis von knapp 30 US-Dollar erscheint daran gemessen ziemlich hoch. Bei der PDF-Version, die es auf unabsehbare Zeit für knapp 10 US-Dollar gibt, stimmt das Preis-Leistungs-Verhältnis schon eher.

Die Endwertung fällt deshalb alles in allem durchwachsen aus. Das Cyberpunk Red Jumpstart Kit ist vor allem ein Produkt für alte Cyberpunk-Fans, die wissen wollen, wie die Geschichte weitergeht, und für alle, die sich mental schon mal auf Cyberpunk 2077 einstimmen und mehr über R. Talsorians Cyberpunk-Welt erfahren wollen. Für Einsteiger, die einfach neugierig auf das Cyberpunk-Genre insgesamt sind, ist das Jumpstart Kit definitiv eine Option, aber nicht unbedingt der Geheimtipp des Jahres.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Cyberpunk Red Jumpstart Kit
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The Witcher Pen & Paper RPG
by Jonathan S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/08/2020 22:06:11

Physical Book: Physical book craft is akin to a poor quaility modern magazine. Ink smudges, the pages are thin, feel cheap and are easy to tear. The printing ink warped the pages so they are slightly wavy. The Upside is the High Quaility images, though not a huge fan of the extreemly clean modern art style. I wish the art in the book was like the front cover art which imo is incredible. 2/10

PDF: Layout is uninspired. It is difficult to get excited about playing the game by reading the book due to the blandness. The complexity of the system is simply unessesary. Why do I need to know what the Control Modifer for a Horse or an OX is? Charts everywhere throughout the book which means u will be flipping through the book in the middle of the game constantly. Thus grinding the game to a halt, (if you want to play the game as 'Rules intended'). Most GM's won't run the game like this which will lead to imo over half the rules never being used and ignored. This leads to wasted pages in the book which could have been filled with useful content like adventures or towns. The character sheet hurts the eyes. The World lore section is nice though too brief and generally lack many adventure hooks. Life paths are interesting. Rolling for your defense in combat is very fun (as opposed to a static AC). There are some great ideas in this book but it will take a lot of homebrewing and changing to cut the junk and have a reasonably clean running system. 2.5/10

I'm very confused as to why there are so many positive reviews on this game... The witcher universe is great, and I am very happy this book was made! There are the bones of a great witcher game here, but you need to rip out a lot of pointless rules, charts and spend a lot of time creating your own content from scratch before you can enjoy this game. Not something I think is worth the price tag unless you are desperarte.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
The Witcher Pen & Paper RPG
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Cyberpunk Red Jumpstart Kit
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/03/2020 12:04:29

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This review is based primarily on the massive boxed set of the Cyberpunk RED jumpstart kit; I have also consulted the electronic version; this review was moved up in my reviewing queue due to me receiving a physical copy of the boxed set for the purpose of a fair and unbiased review.

Okay, that out of the way, let us start!

In the archive of the electronic version, there is a two-page standee-pdf for paper minis…and much to my pleasant surprise, the R. Talsorian crew has not simply put a sheet of paper in the box – instead, the standees in the box are part of a THICK, sturdy cardboard. A single little press made them seamlessly pop out of it. Kudos for going the extra mile with a material that actually withstands the rigors of play. Moreover, 12 plastic feet for the standees are included –assembling of the paper-minis was easy-peasy: Put the standee in the foot, done.

It should also be noted that the physical boxed set includes two custom d10s, and four custom d6s, using the Cyberpunk RED icon as the maximum number, with each number sporting red circuitry. The dice are black with red numbers, and unlike many comparable dice, the red circuitry elements so far haven’t worn off, so once again, the R. Talsorian crew did not cut corners here. Kudos.

Now, one glimpse at the archive will net you a 12-page pdf of pregens: The front side of these sports a high-quality artwork alongside a background story, with the fully filled-out stats on the back in an already ready-to-play filled out sheet. In the physical box, these pregens are printed on glossy, high-quality paper – thicker, and obviously made to be handed out and used. Speaking of which: The boxed set also includes 4 full-color maps, all of which come with grids and plenty of details. One map depicts a street-corner, another a dust-choked street, the third an apartment complex, and the fourth a bar. In their physical iterations, these are also glossy paper, with each map the size of 2 regular pages, so tabloid format.

Speaking of which: The box contains a EZ Reference tabloid – 4 pages. 2 pages are the basic rules, 1 page is all about the netrunning rules, and the final page contains 3 NPC stats. In the electronic iteration, two versions are provided: A 4-page iteration for regular printers, and a 2-page version for printers capable of printing tabloid-size. Yep, all rules fit on two pages. (And in case you were wondering, this booklet is actually enough to run the game if you’ve understood it once. Two pages. That’s super-promising for the final game.

Final game? Yeah, this is not a full-blown iteration of Cyberpunk RED; instead, this is a starter kit, and I’ll rate it as such – much like e.g. Pathfinder’s Beginner’s Box or the LITE-version of the Witcher RPG, this box is all about providing the tools you require to dive into the game in every way. However, this book does not provide the tools for you to make your own, fully-realized characters. It is a starter’s kit. That being said, as far as I could tell, this is not, and that is important, a dumbed-down version of the game – which is a good thing. I am not a fan of learning a dumbed-down version of a game, only to have to unlearn it later, so kudos for this decision.

Okay, this out of the way, the system employed is an evolution of the Interlock system, and veterans of Cyberpunk should have an easy time getting into the game’s rules. The rules book included in this set clocks in at 43 pages (already minus cover, editorial, etc.), and in the physical iteration, is a nice, perfect-bound softcover with glossy, thick paper. But didn’t I say that the rules fit on 2 pages? Yeah, well, the rule book? It’s not just dry rules – it is not only a brief introduction of roleplaying games, it also explains the crucial aesthetics of cyberpunk. This is in so far important, as Cyberpunk 2020 was firmly routed in the 80s and their vision of the future; it was a vocalization of hopes and fears of that age…and now that we have arrived in 2020, rehashing these would have, at best, resulted in feeling, well…quaint.

This game does not do “quaint.” The game moves the timeline ahead to 2045, after the fourth corporate war, which saw a small tactical nuke go off in the center of Night City at its conclusion. The power-dynamics of the world have been thoroughly shaken by this catastrophe, and while some might assume a somewhat post-apocalyptic tint, I’d actually not subscribe to that. First of all, tech and construction can negate radiation; the detonation has catapulted dust into the air, tinting dawn and dusk in crimson shades. Hence the RED. This is a strong angle – why? Because Night City is inhabited, Because the mega-corps have fragmented, emphasizing a dog-eat-dog struggle to come out on top, a notion of the urban jungle. If anything, this reminded me of the fantastic dub-step-y metal-song Red Sun from Metal Gear Revengeance (btw.: That OST is the perfect Cyberpunk soundtrack…):

“Golden rays of the glorious sunshine Setting down, such a blood-red light Now the animals slowly retreat To the shadows – out of sight

Arid breeze blows across the mountains Giving flight to the birds of prey In the distance machines come To transform Eden – day by day“

Those lines perfectly encompass for me the feeling of Cyberpunk Red. More so than the original book, the notion of the city as a jungle, as popularized in post 2000s weird fiction, can be considered to be the proper leitmotif for the game – and in such a world, everyone has an angle, and style is just as important as everything else. Not only is Cool an ability score, social combat/intimidation provides a massive debuff to those you beat. Cyberpunk is a mindset, and one that is conveyed as much via mindset, as via aesthetics.

Attributes are btw. Intelligence, Willpower, Cool, Empathy, Technique, Reflexes, Luck, Body, Dexterity, Movement. The final book will have three ways to construct characters; Hit Points are derived from Body, with wound threshold and death save as further derived stats.

The basic resolution mechanic used by Cyberpunk Red, is to add a Stat, the associated skill, and roll 1d10, then compare that with the DV (Difficulty Value) – if you BEAT the DV, you succeed. Combat is essentially opposed skill check. This, of course, results in an emphasis on ABILITY. If you are good at something, you might not even need to roll; if you suck at something, you’re vulnerable in that regard. Much like the Witcher RPG, this means that the RPG a) can be pretty deadly, and b) that your abilities matter more than in e.g. d20-based games. I can’t provide detailed analysis on the rules of the jumpstart kit, primarily because the rules here are intended for the pregens, etc. Netrunning is also covered, and before you ask, there are proper reasons for the by now quaint notions introduced back in Cyberpunk 2020 to now longer apply – as noted, this does not cater to quaintness, it knows no sacred cows. The tweaks made to the combat engine in particular are, as far as I could judge with the material presented and the playtesting frame I had, rock-solid, though judging such a system without access to the totality is an exercise in speculation – for now, it looks better than the 2020.

As a long-time Shadowrun fan, this should not exactly make me happy, considering how SR hasn’t exactly handled sweeping changes particularly well. And this is where Cyberpunk Red is genuinely superior, at least in my book.

You see, beyond the basics in the rules book (which btw. includes full explanations of slang), the box contains a second such book – the world book, which explains in a rather in-depth view how the world changed from the Cyberpunk 2020 status; this world book contains 50 pages, and is also a glossy softcover.

The world book is an example of the most efficient world-building I have seen so far in RPGs, period. In these few pages, the book not only presents an overview of how the world changed. It also includes the information how you stay out of trouble; how communication works, the weaponry you’re packing, stats for vehicles and their details, how you’ll score jobs, and the like. From food to media, this covers all. As a comparison: FAITH’s Tiantang is more than TWICE the size of this book, covers only one location, and failed utterly in answering ANY of these questions. I can see this new Night City. I can SMELL it. I love it.

I also love the commitment to “realism” - yes, you can do amazing things with cyber-prosthetics, but there are limits. This is grounded, where Shadowrun, for a while now, has moved ever more towards the edges of science-fantasy, and the system supports and mirrors the playstyle – Cyberpunk RED provides a more pronounced unity of theme and rules. And that is coming from a long-term, die-hard Shadowrun fan.

The world book also contains one adventure, as well as several encounter outlines/mini-quests, supplemented by screamsheets, essentially tabloid-like headline articles that serve as great handouts. These encounters, and the adventure (which is, funnily enough, about keeping your apartment complex!), were surprisingly fun, but also represent the only aspect of this set that imho is not as newbie-friendly as it should be. There is no read-aloud text, and the material is pretty text-block-y. An experienced GM will have no issues here, but novices might have a harder time.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level – the sequence of the rules-presentation, to the extent they are relevant here, is precise, didactically valid, and does a great job teaching the system. On a formal level, I noticed a few minor typos (it’s instead of its, etc.). Layout is a HUGE improvement over e.g. the Witcher RPG – these books look slick, stylish, and awesome. The level of quality of the cover artwork is also retained in all of the copious interior artworks. These books are gorgeous. As noted, the production values of the box are fantastic. The pdfs comes with detailed, nested bookmarks that make navigation simple and smooth as well. The cartography is full-color and neat.

Okay, in context: The Witcher RPG, when I read it, felt like a mess; it was only when I played it, after having digested the somewhat labyrinthine structure, when I really got to enjoy it. Cyberpunk RED not only has superior production values, it also has superior precision regarding its rules, a smarter, more streamlined presentation – it is genuinely one of the most easy-to-get into games that is not rules-lite that I’ve ever seen. This is not only smooth in how it teaches the rules, it is smooth in how it teaches the aesthetics and adapts them for a new age, writing an aesthetic that is still indebted to classic Cyberpunk, and yet radically novel in its transition of the concepts to a new age, in its reframing of what cyberpunk means in this new era. Mike Pondsmith, Cody Pondsmith, David Ackerman, J Gray and James Hutt have achieved a remarkable feat here, and I am not engaging in hyperbole when I’m saying that I want this game right now. I want to play the finished game. I want a whole ton of books for that world. I am truly excited about this, and if the final book can maintain this quality, we might be looking at a #1 Top Ten spot. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

One caveat, though: As noted above, this is the jumpstart kit; whether the final book can live up to this awesomeness remains to be seen. For a long-term game, this lacks the customization options and transparency regarding some rules details, obviously.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cyberpunk Red Jumpstart Kit
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Cyberpunk 2.0.2.0. The Second Edition, Version 2.01
by richard h. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/05/2020 05:42:27

Yes it is a bit dated. And yes, some of the rules (looking at you netrunner) take some time to get a handle on. But if anyone likes William Gibson era cyberpunk, this is THE GAME.

The game can be played as high tech or as low tech as your players want. If you want corporate extractions with lots of combat, you got it. If your group prefers actually role playing and developing stories from the streets, 2020 works perfectly as well.

Warning: Unlike many other popular "cyberpunk" games, combat is very LETHAL in 2020. If your group prefers to shoot first and think later, this may not be the game for them.

Overall: I've been playing and GMing 2020 since it came out (which makes me old) and it's still one of my all time favorite RPGs.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cyberpunk 2.0.2.0. The Second Edition, Version 2.01
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Night City
by richard h. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/05/2020 05:24:37

As a long time 2020 player, who has all of the source books (or at least the pdfs), Night City is the only book beside the core rule book that is essential. Night City may be the best setting made for any RPG. It details the city for GMs and gives numerous hooks or ideas for short adventures to long term campaigns. It is clear that more time and effort went into this sourcebook than any other produced for the 2020 line. While I would argue that most of the 2020 sourcebooks are valuable, this one is a must. Get it and enjoy.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Night City
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Chromebook 1/2
by richard h. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/02/2020 09:56:12

Nice book. Fun stuff to look at......first book very dated, second is slightly better. Depending on how gritty your campaign is, be careful about what you let your characters have the ability to get their hands on, as it can swing the power dynamic in your campaign quickly. Pdf is fine, but book (as catalogue) is much prefered. As someone who owns all the books, or has the pdfs, I would say that this is not a must, but it is pretty cool.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Chromebook 1/2
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The Witcher Pen & Paper RPG
by Blake O. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/29/2019 00:45:57

It's a system which isn't impossible to pick up, but is complex-- which works especially when you know where to look for the crit hits (which happen frequently with regular folk and monsters). For real: take a witcher with you, or at least a man-at-arms, or your group is without hope!

I enjoyed the lore about as much as I enjoyed playing, but if there is are a couple of notes it's what seems to be missing. There is almost nothing on the duchy of beauclaire; the monsters manual appears to be VERY lax. I get the distinct impression they are going to release supplements.

It's not perfect, but I have a blast when I play.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Witcher Pen & Paper RPG
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Lords and Lands: a Witcher TRPG Expansion
by Blake O. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/29/2019 00:21:28

It is cool to see that there is more and more being added to the game, but what holds it back is that it feels like just a taste of what is to come. While I don't recommend getting it at full price, it was definitely worth it while on sale.

I really liked running a lord in my last couple sessions!



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Lords and Lands: a Witcher TRPG Expansion
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The Witcher Pen & Paper RPG
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/27/2019 07:34:00

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This RPG clocks in at 336 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page back cover, 4 pages character sheet, 4 pages of index, 2 pages of author comments (which are actually fun to read!), leaving us with 320 pages devoted to the game, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue due to me receiving a hardcover in exchange for a fair and unbiased review. I have consulted both the hardcover, and the pdf (v.1.2) for the purposes of this review. It was also requested to be released in time for the new Netflix series by one of my patreon supporters, so here we go!

Okay, so before we take a closer look at the mechanics, let us make a few things clear: The timeline of the RPG is set right before the Witcher 3, which makes sense, as it means that the political landscape is at its most volatile; the book btw. does have a detailed “checklist” kind of thing for important decisions that influence the metaplot, so that’s a definite plus. As you can glean from the game artworks, the RPG tends to be closer to the videogames than the books, though, if you’re like me and enjoy them, you’ll be happy to hear that, if you’re like me and prefer certain monsters to be susceptible to meteorite steel, rather than silver, the RPG has you covered.

Speaking of videogames: This is a pretty important notion from the get-go: You don’t play Geralt of Riva; you are not the legendary witcher; you can be a witcher, but you’re no lone wolf; you play as a group. As such, not everybody will be a witcher. This might sound odd, but it is important: This is a team-based RPG, not a solo-player experience, and as such, classes like the Craftsman or Bard are very much important, if perhaps slightly less “sexy” at first glance than the witcher, particularly considering that witchers are REALLY unpopular everywhere. The witcher should, as a general notion, pretty much never do the talking.

Which brings me to a second important note: This is NOT D&D or Pathfinder. This is NOT about high-fantasy. And since you don’t play Geralt or similar superstars of the Witcher world, the focus of the stories told will focus on grittier themes, with politics coming second; combat is NOT the main focus of this game, even though it does have an engine that can allow for pretty tactical altercations.

These two observations are entwined: Witchers are combat monsters, but without Geralt’s improved reputation (bear in mind, he does have renown far and wise and is treated better than his fellows – now picture what less-famous witchers go through!), lone witchers will definitely need help succeeding at their tasks. It is very much possible to play this game without a witcher in the party, and do things other than monster-killing. In short: You have to distance yourself from this idea of the lone witcher than can do everything; in these ways, the RPG hearkens closer to the books, which rather often face Geralt not only with human adversaries that can best him, but also see him rely more often on others – simply courtesy of the genre.

To clarify my position regarding the Witcher franchise: I am a HUGE Witcher fanboy. I have devoured all the books, and Witcher 3 is my favorite video game ever. (Even though I preferred Witcher 2’s more brutal, difficult and skill-based combat, and wish the quality of the DLC bosses had been implemented in the main game as well.) If you need to know, I think that “Deathmarch” is definitely the way to go when experiencing Witcher 3. But I digress. To summarize: This is a game for a group, and it very much is built in a way that emphasizes that; it is not high fantasy, and your adventures should reflect that. The latter point is pretty crucial, considering ho prevalent high fantasy as a RPG-genre is. Okay, are you intrigued? As a huge fan of dark fantasy whose games tend to gravitate in that direction, this theme is right up my alley.

While we’re on the topic of the videogames: The book begins with a recap of the history of the world of The Witcher, including an in-character summary by Rodolf Kazmer (called, hilariously, “Rodolk” in a bookmark); he and Brandon of Oxenfurt are two of the characters that add their own takes as in-character narrators and lighten up the reading experience. And before you ask: Yes, a series of iconic characters are fully statted: Geralt, Yennefer, Dandelion, Zoltan, Triss, Vernon, Iorveth and Letho get full stats as iconic characters – before the game explains its rules. Regarding sequence of presentation, I think that starting off with the world’s history and assumptions of the genre vs. high fantasy, as the game does, was a smart call; however, that out of the way, I think explaining the basics would have been smart. Also, I really hate it when NPC stats are clearly presented in sections that players read – the stats of these NPCs should be in the bestiary in the back.

As far as complexity is concerned, The Witcher RPG is not as complex as Pathfinder, but it is significantly more complex than the more rules-lite old-school systems; as a whole, I’d consider it to be mid-tier in complexity, somewhere adjacent to 5e or DCC, with a less granular magic system, but a more tactical combat engine.

So, what about the mechanics? The Witcher uses two dice – d10s and d6s, with d10s rarely used as d%, but that’s all you need to run the game – I’ll return to that in the combat section. The game uses a heavily-modified iteration of the Interlock system.

Character creation is a 7-step process, and begins with picking your race, with rules for elves, humans, dwarves and witcher provided. However, this section is prefaced with social standing – depending on the territory you’re in, you can be equal, tolerated, feared, or hated, with “feared” being special in that it can be paired with “hated.” A quick glance at the table shows you that the North is actually the least equal land out there; humans are hated in Dol Blathanna and tolerated in Mahakam, Elves are hated in the North, and dwarves are actually equal everywhere, except in the North, where they are only tolerated. Witchers? They are both hated AND feared in both the North and Nildgaard, and only tolerated in Skellige and the non-human realms. Mages are only treated as equals in Dol Blathanna…so yeah, the fact that this is the FIRST thing you see, should give you a good idea how important this factor is.

As for races, these generally have 3 perks (with Witchers being an exception) that are positive; Witchers have a stunted Empathy statistic (the game’s nomenclature for the equivalent of ability scores), capping at 6, minimum 1. These perks generally provide skill bonuses of +1 to +2; dwarves are thick-skinned, with a kind of natural armor of 2 SP (SP = stopping power). While you create the character, skills cap at 6, with a maximum cap of 10 – however, the choices made regarding races do actually allow you to go beyond these caps. Here is a bit of an issue: The game does not state how this works in the context of leveling up: If you, for example, are an aen seidhe, an elf, you gain +2 to Archery. Let’s say, you have an Archery of 7, so 5 +2 race perk. If you now want to increase that by 1, does this cost improvement points equal to the increase to 6, or is the cost required 8? Is the perk bonus added after improvement, or before? I assume the former is true, but the book does not explicitly state this.

This different focus also can be seen by the emphasis on the social context – depending on your race, your lifepath is of serious importance, and after you determine your country of origin (which is contingent on race) and your homeland (which nets you skill boosts), you also have to determine the state of your family, and what may have happened to them – there are tables for this, and it matters, big time. Same goes for determining your status in the society, and your most influential friend. Each of these tables provides a column for the Northern Realms, Nilfgaard, and elderland – so no, skelligers will have to use the northern table. Since death in the Witcher RPG is permanent, the module suggests using the (mostly) large families of particularly humans as good ways of introducing backup characters. For every 10 years of your life, you roll for life events – 1-4 = fortune or misfortune, 5-7 the forming of allies and enemies, and 8-10 deals with romance. Fortunes can have mechanical repercussions, or provide potent roleplaying boons (like a tamed wild animal, etc., a favor with a mage, etc.), while the bad things can include anxiety attacks, being feared or cursed, etc. I was slightly disappointed by the romance-section not having at least a small table for the (very rare!9 happy love affair, but more importantly, why is there no table for whores and debauchery?

Indeed, this may be one of the most puzzling oversights of the system – there are no carousing rules in the RPG, when that is obviously an important component of the narrative fabric of the franchise. That being said, the RPG also has a generator for determining your personal style.

After this, you choose the equivalent of the class – in this RPG, this is called the profession – obviously, if you’re a witcher, this choice is already fixed – witcher doubles as both profession and race. Each of the professions has a defining signature skill, a skill package, and a list of gear to choose from. If you’re playing a magical character, you also get a Vigor rating. The professions are bard, craftsman, criminal, doctor, mage, man at arms, merchant, priest, and witcher. Class-wise, there is one glaring oversight that has been relegated to the mini-expansion for the game that accompanies the GM-screen: The default game has no noble-rules, and makes mages the default courtly folks. That…bothered me more than it should have.

Having chosen this profession, we have to get to the statistics: There are 9 of those, and the game lets you choose the power-level of your characters via point-buy, providing suggestions ranging from average characters to legends. The game also explains what stat-levels mean. The statistics are Intelligence (INT), Reflexes (REF), Dexterity (DEX), Body (BODY), Speed (SPD), Empathy (EMP), Craft (CRA), Will (WILL), Luck (LUCK). Luck is special – before making a skill roll, you can expend any number of luck points, adding +1 per point added. These points refresh at the start of each session.

From these, you derive further statistics: Vigor is a threshold – it’s the total cost in Stamina (STA) of all the spells you can cast/maintain in a given round; exceed that, and you take damage. Stun is a save number – rolling under this number, divided by 10. Nonlethal damage lowers this number. Run is SPD x3; Leap is a tactical movement, and is the Run value divided by 5 – it’s also how far you jump.

HP, STA, REC (how much HP you regain per bed rest), and Stun are determined by adding BODY + WILL, and dividing this by 2, then correlating the value with a table. Body also influences melee damage bonus and hand to hand damage caused.

Now, the most meaty part is the skills: The first 11 skills are taken from the profession’s skill package and you get to split 44 skill points between them; you must put at least 1 point in each of these skills. Beyond this, you get Intelligence + Reflex Pick Up Skills that you have picked up at one point. Some skills are harder to pick up, and have a cost of (2) noted – these require 2 skill points per level. To upgrade, so upgrading Alchemy from 7 to 8 would cost 14 points. It should be noted that archery, crossbows, spears,. Etc. – all are skills. You roll a d10, add the skill’s statistic and the skill, and try to get ABOVE the DC. Meeting the DC does not suffice. Sample DCs are provided, and modifier examples based on circumstances are provided. The attentive reader will notice that this makes characters pretty reliably competent in what they do – this is not a bug, as far as I’m concerned. I’ve always considered the “5% of something going horribly wrong”-angle to be a bit weird. However, if you want that type of D&Dish uncertainty, or simply are used to it, you might at first be taken aback by the fact that you sometimes won’t actually have to roll, and that luck isn’t as important. (Funnily enough, the example given for opposed skills illustrates this rather well – so yeah, definitely a feature and not a bug!)

Character advancement is handled via I.P. (Improvement Points) – these are used to learn new skills, improve old ones, and Teaching and book-learning are actually efficient! Raising statistics is btw. costly – 10 times the level of the statistic. Okay, is that the CURRENT level of the statistic, or is that the level of the statistic to which you want to raise it? The book should have specified that. IP is awarded not for monster slaying – but for doing something impressive, something out of the box, for participating often and efficiently, etc. – nice!

Well, Before, I mentioned the signature skills of professions, right? Well, each of these skills has a base ability, and three specialization branches, which present different focuses. These sport progressively better, unique ability, and within each specialization, must be attained in order. The difference between the different specializations is pretty damn pronounced – The surgeon treat of the doctor’s healing hands focuses on diagnosis, analysis, etc., while the anatomist can inflict bleeding wounds, halve wound healing speed with particularly nasty wounds and learn to execute even crippling wounds! These specializations btw. might have different statistics associated with them – for the Criminal, thieves can e.g. memorize locks and tumbler positions, which is based on INT, while an assassin’s eye gouge attack is based on DEX. Man at Arms can become marksmen, reavers or bounty hunters – in essence, these skill trees could be thought of as archetypes or class kits. These are NOT mutually exclusive, though!

After that, it’s just equipment that needs to be sorted out: Witcher knows 4 damage types (Slashing, Piercing, Bludgeoning, and Elemental), and well-crafted weapons have an optional bonus to hit, denoted by WA (Weapon Accuracy), they also have an availability, and a Reliability rating – this is the number of times you can block before the weapon breaks. Each weapon also notes its ability to be concealed, weight, and cost. Finally, weapons note how many slots for runes they have. These are weird – why does a dagger have none, but a stiletto has one?

Combat is lethal: Damage for swords ranges from 2d6+2 to 6d6, and there are descriptions provided for them all, with descriptors like long reach, ability to focus magic, etc. included. So yeah, gear is important, and good gear is great – however, you need to be careful and regularly maintain it – Craftsmen will be very popular. Armor, as noted before, stops damage, and can theoretically be layered, though this is not an advisable strategy; important: The Witcher differentiates between head, torso and leg armor. Kits, services and the like are covered as well.

Initiative is 1d10 + REF, with ties going to the players. You can improve this via fast draws, +3 to initiative, -3 to atk for the first round, and you MUST attack – so no aiming etc. Combat knows regular wounds, and critical wounds – the latter are potentially deadly, crippling, and will make you really congratulate yourself for sticking at least relatively close to a doctor or mage. Combat assumes 3-second rounds, and you can make fast or slow attacks (ranged weapons are limited), and STA may be spent for an additional attack or defensive action. Since attack rolls are executed with d10s, and so are defensive actions, skills are pretty important. Humanoid and monster damage locations are included, and cover types get their own SP-values.

You can use your action to make 2 fast or one strong attack, cast magic, initiate verbal combat, run (SPDx3), you can actively dodge, you can aim, take a Recovery Action to replenish STA (or HP out of combat), or Aim. Attacks that damage you also deteriorate your armor, and damage explodes – both in a positive and negative way. 1s mean you reroll, and subtract the rerolled number from yours; 10s mean that you get to roll again, and add the result of the reroll. Subsequent 1s and 10s do btw. stack. Critical wounds are incurred by beating the Defense of the target by 7 (simple), 10 (complex), 13 (difficult) or 15 (deadly), and in addition to the specific effects from their own tables, these inflict bonus damage. Yep, not only can damage explode, the nuanced critical wounds system makes serious injuries…well…serious. My one complaint here, is that we’re pretty much left with only humanoid-centric tables; no guidance is provided for creatures with a different anatomy. On the plus side, the game does differentiate between stabilizing and treating wounds.

The game knows a wound threshold, which is contingent on the Max Health – when your HP goes below it, you halve your REF, DEX, INT and WILL. Rules for various critical hits and prosthetics are provided as well – kudos: The book mentions Götz von Berlichingen as an example of a prosthetic-wearing badass. (And yes, the “Ö” is correct here – the book calling the fellow “Gotz” is not), and magical combat follows the same paradigm. The book also comes with optional Adrenaline rules, which nets you adrenaline dice when you score critical hits. As noted before, social interaction is supplemented by a verbal combat engine – the engine is solid, but I’d have preferred it to be a bit more detailed, have more things that can be done with adrenaline.

Mage spells have, as noted before, a Stamina cost, a range, a duration, and are grouped in three categories – novice, journeyman and master spells, and they use the classic 4 elements; Druids and preachers have the same 3-class division for their spells, but there are also arch priest invocations, which are only rarely taught and usually the purview of powerful individuals and/or saints. Rituals follow the same guiding principle, but also require components and DCs to meet to successfully cast them – artifact compression, golem crafting etc. fall under this category. There obviously are the signs, and Hexes are formulaic short-term curses; curses are plot devices. In case you were wondering: novice, journeyman/master determines the I.P. required to learn the magic; this takes time and checks versus a Learning DC.

Crafting is easily one of my favorite aspects herein – you need to ascertain you have the diagram, the ingredients, and then can craft the item – this engine covers basic crafting materials, hides and animal parts, alchemical treatments and components, etc. You pay half the item’s price in Investment cost, listed conveniently in the diagrams. These are btw. once more classified as novice, journeyman and master...but here, we also have grandmaster diagrams. Scavenging and repair is pretty darn important if you want to survive in The Witcher, so yeah – elegant, granular, like this one. Alchemy follows a similar angle, with the 9 basic components (Vitriol, Rebis, Aether, Quebrith, Hydragenum, Vermilion, Sol, Caelum, Fulgur) and items/monster parts noted – one look at the vitriol table, for example, nets you the knowledge that they can be found in nekker teeth, barley or troll hide. The game does not only faithfully render the whole crafting/alchemy component, it also emphasizes something I haven’t seen done this well: The loot-game aspect is strong (considering the differences in e.g. sword-damage output), but MAINTAINING the gear is actually not that simple. I love that – it adds grit and a survival aspect to the game. Spending all your gold on a single sword is a BAD idea – what help will it be once it falls apart because you can’t afford to maintain it? Big kudos there.

After this, the book provides an overview of the regions of the world of the witcher, and then proceeds to provide salient GM-advice, which includes advice on encounter scaling, rewards, tables for random possessions, how to handle min-maxers in a non-adversarial manner, as well as campaign advice.

Really annoying: All rules for witchers show up THEN. Not where all the PC information is, oh now – after the GM advice. This is, organization-wise, really, really annoying. That being said, the Hunt-engine should probably be in the GM-section, while the witcher gear section should be in the player part of the supplement. After this somewhat misplaced section, we get runes for magic runes and rune-based item enhancement (which should imho be in the equipment section), and in the same chapter, we have unique magic items, the relics…which are well-placed in the more GM-centric part of the book. After this, we have a short bestiary that includes stats for bandits, commoner knowledge/superstitions, academic and/or witcher knowledge, etc. – vulnerabilities are noted. This section is pretty comprehensive, though the only vampire included, as one of the most potent creatures herein, is the katakana. Cats, horses etc. also get stats.

Finally, there is a brief introductory scenario – “To all a Good Night.” This scaenario deals with vanishing children, has a political angle, and formally, features both read-aloud text, and the adventure establishes themes, difficulty, etc. rather well. The module comes with not necessarily good-looking, but plentiful maps of the entire town – manor, tavern, standard homes, etc. – all covered, and all presented in a player-friendly manner. Kudos.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. While I noticed a few guffaws, the book is fully functional as presented. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard, with each chapter featuring a differently-colored border, and information in sidebars. Artworks are taken mostly from concept art from the video-games: Fans of Gwent will recognize them. The artworks are high quality, though the endrega-artwork is oddly pixilated in my copy. The hardcover is a sturdy book and withstood the rigors of life with me well so far. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Cody and Lisa Pondsmith deliver a surprisingly cool licensed RPG here – licensed RPGs are often not that interesting, but this book not only manages to depict the world of the Witcher in a faithful manner, but does so well. The systems, particularly the alchemy and crafting components, show a dedication to things different from slaying things that is super-refreshing to see. The focus to tell different fantasy stories than in default fantasy games? Great. That being said, as you could see above, there are a couple of instances, where the rules could be a tad clearer.

Same goes for the layout and how it presents information and the sequence of information - sidebars somethings are fluff-commentary, sometimes crucial rules, etc. These should be visually more distinct from each other - I don't know, scrolls, different colors...something. That'd also liven up the comparably muted aesthetics of the book.

The main achievement of the game, though, is that it plays differently from the big fantasy games – neither 5e, nor PFRPG, nor the OSR-games, nor GURPS or WFRPG/Zweihänder, etc. play anything remotely like this game – The Witcher feels like a breath of fresh air in many ways in many of its components.

There is a lot to love about The Witcher; you can try it for FREE via the Demo dubbed “Easy Mode”, and if you’re looking for a change of pace, this certainly delivers. As per the writing of this review, I am hoping that we’ll get a full-blown campaign-book and/or further adventures and monsters – a monster/NPC book with further beasts and stats for Impera brigade etc. would be greatly appreciated – the game’s most significant obstacle right now is that it can’t lean on a wealth of adventures that teach adventure-crafting for the game, when the group-focus (in opposition to the videogame’s single-player experience) as well as the themes diverging from high fantasy could see some less experienced GMs struggle.

As a whole, there is a lot about this game that I love, but there also are more components of it than I’d like to see that could use minimal finetuning. As such, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Witcher Pen & Paper RPG
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Witcher: Easy Mode
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/19/2019 04:20:06

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This introduction to the Witcher RPG clocks in at 32 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 30 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested to be moved up in my queue by my patreon supporters.

We begin this book with a brief, boiled down recap of the world of the Witcher, with the sidebar giving further guidance – in case you were wondering, the very first page has the editorial information on the sides.

These basics out of the way (and they are relevant), we learn how to read the character sheet on one page, before we actually do get sample characters: A witcher, a dwarven criminal, a human mage, a human man-at-arms, an elven bard, a dwarven doctor, and a one-page version of the main game’s lifepath engine – easier to digest, as only the northern realms are covered.

You don’t need to understand ANY rules so far – you can just pick a pregen and be done with it – or you’ll have an understanding of what your character sheet means. Didactically, this sequence is smart….and similarly, the module proceeds to explain the basics of the game: You essentially only need d6s and d10s, and basic terms are properly explained. Yes, this includes stating that the “0” of the d10 is actually a “10” and not a “0”. This section is dense, but it is also rather easy to grasp.

To make a skill check, you roll 1d10 and add the Skill Base – which often can become pretty high! Competence is more important than in your average d20-based game, which is a good thing as far as I’m concerned. The Standard DCs (the pdf probably should note that this stands for “difficulty class”) range from 10 to 30, just fyi. If a character beats the DC, they succeed; if they only roll equal to or less than it, they fail. Opposing checks are opposed rolls, and there are modifiers, which range from mild (+1/-1) to major (+5/-5), and yes, examples are provided. 1s and 10s on skill checks explode: If you roll a 1, you roll again, and subtract the number from the result; if you roll a 10, you get to roll again and add the number – this makes potentially catastrophic failures and legendary luck very much possible, and can make combat etc. rather dangerous. Why? Well, weapons etc. are skills as well!

Saves are handled by rolling 1d10, and trying to roll under the character’s Save value.

The game knows 9 ability scores, called “statistics” in the game’s parlance, which include Intelligence, Reflexes, Dexterity, Body, Speed, Empathy, Craft, Will, and Luck. All statistics and skills are briefly explained.

Combat assumes rounds that take 3 seconds, and you roll 1d10 + Reflex to determine initiative order. You can move up to your Speed statistic per round, and perform a single action – these can be attacks, casting, item, movements or skill uses. Difficult terrain or circumstances instead use the Leap value to determine. Wait, what? Yep, apart from Save, Vigor, Leap, HP, Sta (Stamina) and Rec (Recovery) are derived statistics – if this pdf has a single downside, then it would be that these derived statistics are not explained. That being said, this is probably an intentional decision here.

However, know what this does do? It explains how combat works swiftly and precisely (and yes, you get different attacks (strong/fast), different defensive options, and provides the rules for critical wound healing, as well as a means to do so sans having the doctor pregen in the party. Combat is appropriately gritty, grimy, and lethal – and yes, there are effects, such as burning, bleed, etc.

Magic uses the skill system as well, and magic costs Stamina; additionally, there is the Vigor-threshold – if the total Stamina cost exceeds that number, the mage starts taking serious damage from the destructive magic channeled! The pdf provides the Crafting rules for the items featured by the pregens, and then proceeds to present a page of GM-advice before providing the demo-scenario “Still Waters.” This module takes up a lot of real estate, and justifiably so – it features read-aloud text, has means to solve a lot of issues nonviolently (with the full RPG, you could use the Verbal Combat rules) – it is all about a simple task: Fleeing the Nilfgaardian tide across the Pontar, now that Vizima has fallen. Hah. Simple. Hint: It’s not. Not when scoia’tael and drowner and the massive Ponar are involved. The themes are strong, we get a full-color map (which is 100% player-friendly!!), and better yet, the module actually manages to be nonlinear while indirectly quoting one of the classic Witcher stories. In short: It’s an excellent demo-scenario.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are top-notch on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard, with color-coding for chapters and sidebars used to convey further information. The artworks are top tier; the cartography is nice, if slightly less impressive, and the pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience.

Cody Pondsmith and J Gray deliver one of the best pen and paper RPG demos I’ve seen so far: The rules herein allow you to dip your toes into The Witcher RPG without leaving anything truly out: This is a thoroughly HONEST, condensed version of the game. It does not include every rule, obviously, but it includes everything you need to run the game. And that is awesome. It also does not try to be something it’s not. Know how, quite often, the free offerings for a game tend to be prestige objects, with the proper games falling behind? That’s not the case here. I have the full RPG-book right here, and the Easy Mode provides a reliable means to determine whether the game is for you and your group. I really, really enjoy that.

Oh, and yes, this is FREE. It costs zilch, zero, nada.

That is not only fair, it is awesome. The Witcher RPG’s Easy Mode is an excellent demo of the surprisingly powerful engine of the game – and for what it is, it gets 5 stars + seal of approval. If the game even remotely interests you, I’d suggest downloading this right now.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Witcher: Easy Mode
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The Witcher Pen & Paper RPG
by Ben N. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/28/2019 21:14:00

Really like this, its simple effective combat/skills system which supports; good character growth and back story, the setting is efficient and brutal they marry up well. its very accessible to new players as well. It reminds me of chaosium's Elric and the  various Conan rpgs but its a better system all round. Many of you might recall cyberpunk 2020, this is essentially the same thing adapted for this setting.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Witcher Pen & Paper RPG
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Cyberpunk Red Jumpstart Kit
by Mark H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/29/2019 15:20:35

Wonderful art and well put together. For a jumpstart "preview" kit of the upcommin RED edition - this is a wonderful product for the price.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cyberpunk Red Jumpstart Kit
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Night City
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/17/2019 13:06:16

An Endzeitgeist.com review

Night City is a 184-page sourcebook, with two pages devoted to interior cover/editorial/TOC, leaving us with a mighty 182 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue due to me receiving a print copy of the book in exchange for a fair review. I am going to break my usual format big time in this review, so a few things: The book features b/w-artworks and maps, two-column standard, and the layout is great. The print copy is a softcover, and ridiculously inexpensive for the amount of content provided.

So, first things first – this book is pretty rules-lite: While there are fully statted NPCs herein alongside encounter suggestions/hooks/random encounters, the majority of this book is a sourcebook – one, as you open the pages, chock full with maps. Most of these are isometric, namely the ones for the city blocks; when e.g. maps of other environments are concerned, like Mallplexes etc., we instead have the traditional top-down view. The maps also includes some blank maps sans keys, so you can use those to design your own neighborhoods.

…you don’t care particularly about that, right? Okay, so, Night City is a city that never was (in our world), but something odd has happened in the time since 1991, when this book was released. Let me go on a brief tangent: When I first read 1984, I was but a kid, but even back then, the Orwellian nightmare depicted seemed cartoonish to me, a recipe for a steady flux of revolts and rebellions. When, not long after, I read “Brave New World”, I was utterly horrified by Huxley’s vision; if you’re not familiar with the vision – think about replacing soma, the wonder-drug and control mechanism in the book with media, and you’ll have some frightening. His theory of control for ruling classes requiring the consent of masses, which would need sedation, being divided, crucial information lost in a flood of irrelevant drivel with clever propaganda…whenever I see the sheer amount of adorable puppy/kitten-videos on youtube, something within me quakes and shivers…because I love them as well, and because I very much realize how successful these strategies are. As an aside: There btw. is an informative interview from 1958 with the man on youtube.

What does that have to do with Night City? Well, more than any other RPG-book I’ve read, it feels prophetic. When it was released, not that long ago in the grand scheme of things, many of its visions were dystopian…where today, I’d consider the city depicted herein more of an allotopia, an alternate version of our world, that is at once worse and better than ours.

In a way, cyberpunk as a genre is always about the anxiety of being shoehorned into a system; more than in any other literary genre, the “punk” aspect, the anxiety regarding Randian visions and corporate oligarchies very much are central leitmotifs for the genre, whereas aesthetically, cyberpunk often is a kind of retro-science fiction; in the case of the 1980s and early 90s, a genre about the feat of lack of corporate accountability, loss of privacy, dehumanizing technology, a society bursting apart into classes, deeply divided by a stream of electronic diversions that help us cope with a dog-eat-dog world where empathy is a luxury few can afford. All the surveillance via cred-chips and on the respective internet substitutions? Don’t they pale in comparison to what big data companies, facebook, google, etc. can do?

In a way, to modern, 21st century aesthetics, cyberpunk-themes, like its aesthetics, are starker, clearer – neon glow and black trenchcoats, a(n un-) healthy dose of ultraviolence…edgerunners/shadowrunners vs. corporate/”the man”…but is it actually more dystopian that internet lynchmobs driving people to commit suicide based on allegations? Is it more frightening than the decentralized social media-powered mob-rule, the conflict between ideologies and news spun in various ways, obscuring any semblance of a reliable narrative? In many ways, Cyberpunk’s aesthetics have developed from a frightening dystopia to something I genuinely considered to be less frightening than the realities we all face on a daily basis; it now feels like an alternate reality.

And here is the genius of Night City. Many old science-fiction scenarios or cyberpunk books suffer from technological advances outpacing their predictions in many ways we consider to be important, while excessively exaggerating others. In a way, Night City manages to be different, but hits the mark remarkably well – and this is due to clever writing that genuinely deserves being called “prophetic” in many ways, it’s this aspect that keeps this book relevant, that is responsible for the tome aging so ridiculously well.

What do I mean by this? Well, for once, the presentation is actually better than that of most contemporary sourcebooks, regardless of game: From the get-go, a central conceit is maintained that must have been so audacious, so far-out, that it’s a testament to the design-team’s skill and vision that they managed to pull it off: Night City is presented, as a series of dataterm entries, as a kind of online travelling guide/wiki/related series of articles – information that, if you replace dataterms with smartphones, mirrors frighteningly our own realities: We begin with the tourist board of sorts, cheerfully written in a manner that mirrors perfectly the luring and compelling tone that we’ve come to expect from tourist sites “Come visit XYZ!”” Sidebars that state “See also pg. XYZ” also provide an illusion of hyperlinks of sorts that furthermore enhances the ease of use of the book as a physical artifact.

Once you’ve consumed the basics about a region, what do you do? Bingo, you check out the maps of the region – and the supplement predicts in many ways how google maps operates: From state maps to maps of airports with dates of departure and arrival noted, to whole quarters, including ratings and comments on restaurants, bars and similar establishments, the book is utterly uncanny in the precision of its predictions, as well as in the sheer amount of detail presented.

In fact, and this may be construed to be a peculiar irony, it is the punk aspect that feels most fantastic – regarding the breakdowns of the gangs, for example, the augmentation-heavy gangs bordering on cyberpsychosis are the more fantastic, whereas the ones that follow more subdued themes can be considered to, once again, be uncanny: What about, for example, the gang called “bozos”, who are essentially Jokers from Batman beyond – or more violent antecedents of the phenomena of the Insane Clown Posse or the relatively recent horrorclown-hysteria? What about the Philharmonic Vampyres, a prankster gang/social activists that blend randomness and activism? They sound a lot like the Anonymous movement to me. Or, if you recall the 80s and 90s, what about the voodoo boys, an academic gang of essentially drug-selling posers? Their write-up reads like a delightfully scathing commentary on cultural appropriation running rampant during that age, with gang membership so hilariously over the top (bone through septum, for example…) in their ridiculousness, it’s hard not to chuckle.

Regarding ecology, Cyberpunk’s world may be less bad off than ours, or worse, depending on whether you believe that we’ve already doomed our planet with men-wrought climate change, or still have a chance to save it. We might not have the more garish and punk acid rain and poisonous smog (at least not in the same extent), but yeah – in that manner, the game is more extreme in its predictions…or is it? If you e.g. look up the issues in Ulan Bator, for example, one can’t help but wonder…It may not be as flashy as in Cyberpunk…but are we perhaps worse off than this dystopia?

So yeah, there is this whole angle where the book gets things right very often – but that alone would not suffice to make for a compelling sourcebook. You see, beyond the uncanny accuracy regarding themes, the book excels in how consequently it is devoted to even the most minute detail of its conceit. A sober guide to travelling to the US is included “telling it as it is”, in a voice less unreliable than the “Come to Night City”-propaganda. See how the whole Brave New World comparison comes full circle? We get threat levels and codes, reminiscent of police information; we get information on where and how people atop a certain social strata live; how Movers live a life inside the corporate hamster-wheel, not unlike the hollow existence of a certain Mr. Bateman, minus the murder. In most cases.

Then again, this is a gaming supplement, and gaming supplements, in one way or another, as supposed to generate a sense of fun, correct? Night City is not a dry reading experience – indeed, while I can’t ascertain this, I wholeheartedly believe that the over the top aspects of the “punk”-component, have, even back n the day, been consciously written that way, for the book ften dives into the at times scathing, at times hilarious territory of satire (hence the American Psycho reference above).

There are generally two types of satire; those in the tradition of Juvenal are supposed to break the individual, ideally make them (or aspects of their persona) cease to exist, while those of Horaz generally seek to redeem the target; Juvenal is scathing and destructive, and one could argue that e.g. the verbal duels in contemporary battle rap could be seen as the heirs of Juvenal, this book is more indebted to Horaz (Horace for English native speakers) in didactic strategies. For example, many of the more exaggerated aspects can easily be read as deliberately extreme forms of hyperbole. I mean, think about it: Combat taxis where you, as the ad in the book proposes, “leave the fighting to us” may exist in Cyberpunk, but what about really bad neighborhoods where no taxis drive? You’ll find that grizzled Uber/Lyft-driver who won’t flinch going there, probably with a handgun or a bigger caliber in the trunk. Are the two worlds really so different? Did I mention the right for disabled people to destroy vehicles parking in their designated spaces, including a signpost showing a person in a wheelchair with a big gun?

If your IQ is in the triple-digits, and I assume that to be the case, courtesy of you reading roleplaying games supplements, you’ll be gently nudged towards plenty of thoughts like this while reading this book. In a way, Night City has transformed over the years and, odd as that may seem, gained layers of meaning instead of losing them. Night City never is just a misery-filled, grimdark cultural pessimism; I was trying to watch “The Purge” while reading this book (I need multiple media to keep my mind busy and focused – overstimulated much? Guilty as charged. That, or I have some sort of neurological anomaly…), and I failed to derive any enjoyment from its ham-fisted attempts at social commentary. It is quite remarkable, then, that a humble RPG-book from the early 90s managed to present a more plausible and nuanced allotopia than basically a contemporary production with a budget infinitely beyond this book. Night City never becomes an exercise in Weltschmerz, it never becomes depressing, and remains nuanced, and plausible to a ridiculous extent.

Case in point: While writing this review, I was researching cities and routes in the US for a little journey…and in the aftermath, there was an uncanny effect – I almost thought I’d find Night City somewhere on the Californian map; not consciously, mind you, but I caught my eyes glancing towards the region where the NorCal/SoCal border is in Cyberpunk. In a way, the book’s structure and almost obsessive attention to even small details in a given city’s block generates an experience not unlike the one I had researching e.g. San Francisco or Seattle, the feeling of loading up on information before getting somewhere, and the sense that you can feel the character of a place before getting there.

In a way, Night City is many things – a ridiculously and lavishly detailed sourcebook full of handy maps; a great satire that manages to get its points across without coming off as talking down to the reader, an allotopia – and it’s a great piece of literature. In fact, it’s one of the few RPG-supplements that I’d genuinely recommend to get just for the sheer joy of reading it. Yes, that compelling.

Mike Pondsmith, Ed Bolme, Sam Shirley, Anders Swensen, Colin Fisk, Will Moss, John Smith, Mike Mac Donald and Lisa Pondsmith have penned an all time classic, a book that is at once educational and entertaining, that does not jam an ideology down your throat, but that can and will prompt contemplation on a wide variety of topics. In a way, it is a book we might well need in these times, where plenty of individuals and institutions benefit from generating divisions instead of emphasizing things we have in common. In a way, this is a book that may well be more relevant today than when it was originally released. How many books can claim that? 5 stars + seal of approval. This also gets my “Best of”-tag and should be considered to be an EZG Essential. If you’re a roleplayer living in these troubling times, consider picking this up. Sit down with your beverage of choice, put on some synthwave (I am partial to Keygen Chrurch, GosT and Perturbator, myself) and read. Think. And then think about how even the exaggerated behavior patterns in Cyberpunk are influencing us. You might well come out as a happier and more open-minded person. And even if you don’t, you’ll have read one of the most detailed, lavish sourcebooks ever penned for the cyberpunk genre, not only the Cyberpunk 2020-game.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Night City
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