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Cyberpunk Red Jumpstart Kit
by Franck F. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/01/2019 11:20:44

Great production value, on par with the quality of products coming out these days. I'm looking forward to run that game with my group and get back some of that old Cyberpunk magic :).



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Cyberpunk Red Jumpstart Kit
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The Memoirs of Auberon of Faerie
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/30/2019 08:26:31

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement clocks in at 125 pages of content, already accounting for editorial, covers, etc. –so quite a lot of material!

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue due to me receiving a print copy in exchange of a fair and unbiased review. This review is based on the print-version of the book.

All right, as you know by now, I tend to write Falkenstein-reviews in character, but here, this is not feasible, as the content within this book contains a plethora of metaplot spoilers. As usually, we have a book here that is written in character, which means that, in spite of having quite an impressive amount of “crunchy” (i.e. rules-related) content, this book ultimately is a great reading experience, though one that should be made available exclusively to hosts – or only as part of the plot of a campaign of the Great Game, for reading this can very much change the themes of the Great Game.

Structurally, the book can be roughly separated in two sections – the first pertains a history of the faerie, while the second presents a kind of bestiary/ecology for all the different types of faerie that may be found in New Europa and beyond – this is both a lore book and a kind of bestiary for the fair folk. (And yes, if you haven’t, I’d STRONGLY encourage you to get the amazing Curious Creatures-bestiary put out by Fat Goblin Games – it’s basically the bestiary that Castle Falkenstein really needed as a complement to this book!)

Anyhow, the frame of reference that contextualizes this book is clever – Auberon himself obviously has an agenda with this book, and there is an additional layer of unreliable narration here, as we have to rely on what we know about from the narrator. These two layers achieve, structurally, something I enjoy seeing – namely the option for a host to disregard components and chalk it up, even if the dramatic characters have found the memoirs in-game, to being the angle of Auberon, arguably one of the greatest tricksters in all of New Europa.

Now, Castle Falkenstein is no grimdark, grimy game – quite the opposite. The refreshing component of the game and setting is its emphasis on high adventure, on proper etiquette and manners and the like; after all “Comme il faut” represents still the best LARP/manners-guide I’ve seen for such a context. Castle Falkenstein, thus, is very much a romantic notion of days long past; not in the sense of romanticism, but in the sense of a certain degree of nostalgia. In a way, this perception colors, obviously, the reception of faerie and how they are treated. As you know, the transition from the Middle Ages to the Edwardian and Victorian eras was accompanied by a plethora of monumental changes that swept through the social, geopolitical and also psychological spheres of our lives, changing radically how we think about the world. As such, when reading literature informed by these eras, we are faced with some components that are hard for us to grasp, but which are very much important, particularly in the context of the English-speaking parts of the world. While the class-system informed by Christianity’s divine right to rule as a justification for the privileges of the upper class (also called “Gottesgandentum” in German – roughly meaning “the state by which god’s grace bestowed the privileged position”) was slowly being disassembled, the structures and frames of reference still assumed distinct breeds of human and ascribed a sense of hereditary influence based on class. This tendency would have repercussions in pseudo-sciences like phrenology and the like; it also is mirrored in the structure of language itself, with e.g. “villain” in its meaning as we understand it nowadays once referring to someone “not of noble birth.” In a way, this tendency remains valid to this date, with monarchies around the world put on a pedestal as though these individuals were a breed apart.

What does that have to do with Castle Falkenstein? Well, in a way, Castle Falkenstein’s depiction of faerie tends to conflate them with romantic notions of the sophisticated (and decadent) aristocracy; it presents a justification for treating them as a breed apart – because they are. The tropes associated with aristocracy and gentlemen/lady-heroes as individuals of the proper pedigree make more sense and lessen the impact of a ludo-narrative dissonance that the players of dramatic characters might experience when immersing themselves in Castle Falkenstein’s setting.

This, however, has resulted in the Faerie as depicted in the core book, being pretty familiar; relatable even. Sure, there are plenty of customs that might seem odd, but with the strong grounding in folklore regarding their taboos and behavioral patterns, they conflate well the tropes we associate with their mythological past and the behavior we expect from a breed apart. This is more apparent with the regal types of faerie, but it also extends to e.g. brownies and the like – here, the folksy aspect of their mythology is a more relevant defining feature. This is further enforced by the dichotomy the faerie have presented to us – there are the “good” guys, the Seelie under the command of Auberon, and there are the bad guys, the Unseelie, under the Adversary’s command. Simple, right? And conveniently fits our age-old and religion-enforced tendency to think in absolutes of good and bad, black and white. Heck, this also is represented by the very NAME of the “Adversary”, which obviously is biblical in reference for players; in him having horns, in Auberon, in contrast, being this stunningly-handsome fellow.

Anyhow, this portrayal within the frame of established tropes and contexts has made faerie pretty relatable; easy to grasp and empathize with, at least in comparison. At the same time, this took away from the sense of threat, the sense of the alien that is a core component of what makes the Faerie compelling for many people. To me as a person, they always struck a chord because they seem to be like us – humanoids, with “passions” (or their facsimiles), obsessions and the like, yet totally different and alien. In a way, this book drives home that Castle Falkenstein’s faerie are not elf-like humanoids; they are not a slightly more magical version of humans. They are ALIEN. This book can drastically alter how dramatic characters, players, and humanity as a whole within the setting interact with the faerie, which is why I strongly encourage, once more, only hosts to continue reading.

This brings me to perhaps the most crucial component for you whether you like or dislike this book – do you want your faerie to be stranger, more alien, more than a second form of aristocracy steeped in mythology? Then you’ll like this book. Do you want them to remain more folksy, more human-like? Then there’s a chance you may not be as smitten with this book as I am.

This question is a bit tougher to answer than one would think, mainly due to another component of Castle Falkenstein that is in a way, tied to the Faerie – that would be magic. One of the things I very much love about the game, the byzantine sequence of presentation in the core rule book notwithstanding, would be magic. Magic feels like a science, and while exceedingly potent, it is also subject to a wide variety of rules and checks and balances, to methodologies. This, in a way, for me always conflicted with the portrayal of faerie, and this book, at least to me, remedies this aspect on a lore-level. Once more, this is a matter of taste, but personally, I very much enjoy that the lore of faerie revealed within helps make them make more “sense”. On another note, I could see some hosts argue that this is contrary to the point of faerie – once more, we have an important component of the lore here that is highly contingent on your personal aesthetics. Personally, I like the route taken herein. And remember: This book is Auberon’s perspective; he has an agenda. The host still has carte blanche to ignore any component herein, explain it differently, etc. – in such an instance, the faerie lord has simply lied.

Now, the book does include rules for elfshot and faerie gold, providing the other side of the material-side, contrasting these with the mechanical repercussions for star iron presented in The Lost Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci. The book presents, as noted before, taxonomies for pretty much all types of faerie, which include, just fyi, Daoine Sidhe; vampires are codified as faerie as well, and we get stats and abilities for all of the respective faerie. More importantly, each creature receives what could be called “hooks”, notions that you can expand into your own Adventure Entertainments. The stats provided also include Auberon, the Adversary, Dracula, Morrigan, the children of Auberon, and more – in short, there are a lot of stats herein. Staying true to Castle Falkenstein’s traditions, the write-ups never become dry or boring, which is quite a feat, considering the length of this book.

Very important would also be the explanation of the modalities of a Wild Hunt, how one can resist it, how it feels being sucked into one, the buffs one receives when drawn into one, etc. – it is an interesting notion in how it is explored and explained. I really, really liked this and how it made sense to me.

Okay, this is as far as I can manage to dance around the subject matter at hand. MASSIVE meta-plot SPOILERS follow. Please, if you are playing as a dramatic character in a Castle Falkenstein game, or plan to do that, stop reading NOW. The following discusses HUGE metaplot SPOILERS. Only hosts should continue reading.

… .. .

So, in the beginning, faerie were utterly strange – beings of pure energy. When they happened upon the first world, the inadvertently killed the populace, and destroyed the first world in essentially a vast sequence of events characterized by amoral debauchery, passions and drug-like intoxication. Oops. Bummed out and bereft of remorse that their playthings broke, they returned to their dimension, but that would not really change their approach in the second world – which, however, had one advantage for the locals: Magic. Magic that provided a fighting chance. The faerie still did bide their time, and agreed that stretching out the inevitable destruction would be kinda the better thing to do. In a way, this world is the origin of the main “split” between Seelie and Unseelie – Auberon, ostensibly, fell in love with a human, a narrative consistent with Castle Falkenstein’s themes of high romance, and yet one I never ever bought while reading this. In the end, the faerie disagreed not on whether to destroy/subjugate and ravage the world, but on how to go about it. The adversary and what was to become Unseelie would champion ravaging and annihilating everything in a vast assault, while the Seelie generally assumed a stance more akin to farmers growing cattle to lead them to the slaughter. While the narrative does a good job here of making Auberon and his ilk seem more sympathetic, I couldn’t help but feel that there is something fundamentally wrong here.

The justification here would be that faerie do not have creativity – they can only ever copy and appropriate. This aspect of their psychology makes a lot of sense and radically changes how the faerie are depicted, and the lack of creativity, of the means to create, also explains everything – from why they’d keep humans around to why they put such a high emphasis on manners, conventions, and why taboos have palpable power – the faerie internalize cultural topoi, and make them real. The embody, because that is what they literally are; violating a taboo ultimately is potentially lethal to a faerie because it represents a negation of the very fabric that makes up their being. This is incredibly clever, and incredibly twisted. Auberon’s claims notwithstanding, knowing this made all of his protestations of nobility ring…hollow. And yes, the second world was also destroyed in a massive war with the magic-wielding humans. Oops. This sheer feeling of being alien and not like us becomes particularly evident in the following worlds – the third world had humanity gain psychic powers, take to the stars – and guess what? Humanity kicks the faerie’s behind; many of the legendary first faerie to take shape perish in the war, as they have to realize that, you know, advanced laser weapons and stuff like that does permanently kill faerie. In a desperate exodus, the faerie were stranded in the 4th world – Faerie Hell. It is very much implied that this is OUR world – a world where much of the deadly iron/star iron may be found, where magic is nigh unknown or non-existent; and only after this did they find the 5th world – the world of Castle Falkenstein.

Now, an important aspect here, and what genuinely made this book chilling and the faerie frightening to me, would be that Auberon took a book of human history from the third world. With this book, he is basically trying for a kind of guided human evolution, ostensibly to facilitate a kind of co-existence between humans and faerie. Yep, the faerie are actually manipulating societies and politics on a global, vast long-term agenda, attempting to steer humanity’s course. Sounds an awful lot like becoming domesticated to me, and made a genuine shiver crawl down my spine – particularly since he is constantly evoking love, the fact that he “diminishes” himself by fathering children (which requires that a faerie invests their essence); it constantly made me feel like a bug, looking up at a bug-collector with poised needles to transfix me, who was trying to convince me how much he has my best interest in heart. And, perhaps more chillingly, actually believing that. Why, when they had to evacuate from two realities? Because this sense of superiority, this arrogance, is what they assumed, what they became. It’s hard to explain how chilling this book can be, in spite of its conversational tone – and not because the faerie are alien, but because you realize that they are, in a way, like us…and in a way, they are utterly unlike us.

Like things engaged in a vast masquerade (that suffuses character as well!) that actually defines their very being. Even when typing these words, a shiver ran down my spine – the faerie here are not amoral, as in so many myths; they are moral; in fact, they have internalized our morals to a degree; and that makes them scary, for they do not have the species-bias we do; they have filtered our morals through their own perspective, and the result, even if less far out than e.g. the Changeling-games, is utterly horrifying to me. The closest analogue would probably be a cold and unfeeling AI not guided by logic, but instead by cultural conventions and the approximation of emotion. In a way, all the protestations of high romance and love that ostensibly guide Auberon? To me, they felt phony, chilling and genuinely creepy – unlike vampires in their eponymous masquerade, there is nothing even formerly human here, just an imitation. The lord dost protest too much, methinks. The whole book reads like an elaborate and insincere attempt at vindication.

Don’t like any of that? Really dislike it? Well, the finale adds yet another narrative layer that you could plausibly use to make this book behave as a plot-point of unreliable information, but I’m not going to spoil the nature of this plot-point. While I saw it coming, I liked seeing it.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a two-column b/w-standard, and the pdf features plenty of b/w-artworks. Now, as for these artworks, they are actually my least favorite ones in the Castle Falkenstein supplements I covered. The key-NPCs and their depictions are nice, but the artworks presented for most faeries were not particularly to my liking – a little bit too gnarly, pulpy, fleshy. The more humanoid ones tend to be nice, but plenty of them do look a bit goofy and not as compelling. Compared to “The Lost Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci”, this falls pretty flat in the aesthetics department and is a long shot from the stunning artworks littering the Da Vinci book. The print version is a solid, perfect-bound softcover with name etc. on the side.

Master Jeffery Grubb and Lady Lisa Pondsmith’s take on Faerie in Castle Falkenstein was not what I expected it to; in a way, I expected a more light-hearted romp of fey trickery and passions flaring, and while there are plenty of apocalyptic conflagrations are far as passions are concerned herein, the book caught me by surprise, big time, and radically changed how I think about the faerie in Castle Falkenstein – or at least, how I think about them in the context of how Auberon, with his agenda, depicted them herein. There are plenty options to interpret the material herein, particularly considering the multiple layers of potentially highly unreliable narration, to ignore components of the material within or make any component wholly or partially true or false, which is an exceedingly clever move that saves this book from being a highly-divisive offering for Castle Falkenstein hosts.

How to rate this? Well, more so than most roleplaying games supplements I review, this book’s merit stands and falls with how you (want to) envision faerie within the context of the setting. I can see hosts really loathe this book, its subdued scifi-aspects, etc.; as a person, I absolutely loved what this brought to my table. I probably wouldn’t elect to make everything presented within true in my game, as I like Castle Falkenstein to be a bit more lighthearted (Yes, believe it or not! Castle Falkenstein is the one game where I prefer my game to be less dark!) than the potentially truly grim repercussions presented within do imply, but there are plenty of unique psychological aspects touched upon herein that make the faerie stand out more. And I love that.

No matter whether you like what’s presented within or decide to treat it a s a grand trick or move in the Great game, this book has a lot to offer; if you dislike the narrative angle, this’d probably be a 4.5 stars file, rounded down. If, however, you’re like me and value the implementation of the angle and an increase in strangeness, then you’d probably round up instead. My final verdict hence will be 4.5 stars, rounded up, and this does get my seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Memoirs of Auberon of Faerie
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The Lost Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/15/2019 11:16:38

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive supplement clocks in at 128 pages; if you detract ToC, editorial, etc., you instead get 124 pages out of this book.

This review was moved up in my review queue due to me receiving a print copy of the book. My review is based on the print copy.

First of all: Don’t be fooled by the cover. Yeah, I know. It doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. Once you flip open the book, however, you’ll be greeted with different aesthetics. But before we get into the nit and grit of this massive book, let’s state something clearly:

Even if you don’t play Castle Falkenstein, this may very much be worth getting. I will elaborate why below, but it is my ardent belief that anyone remotely interested in Da Vinci, steampunk and Jules Vernesian, archaic retro-scifi/punk-components should continue reading. (And yes, let it be known that Castle Falkenstein is about high adventure, and not a game infused with punk aesthetics – this does not change that the ideas herein have universal appeal!)

Why? Well, the first 110 pages of this book? They’re basically one ginormous player handout. You see, the core conceit of this supplement is that Da Vinci, with his superb gifts of observation, was somehow aware of the (theoretical) existence of magick. He made small strides with it, limited by our world’s issues in that regard when directly compared to New Europa – and then, Tom Olam brought the notebooks, by coincidence, to New Europa. Here, these notebooks, deemed lost, could change the very fabric of reality, were their contents made known.

The notebook itself has been encoded and was obviously written in archaic Italian, mirrored, etc. – and as a fun enhancer of the conceit presented, one such page is reproduced before the rest of the book has been decoded by proper magick. As a nice aside – this use or sorcery also accounts for the few anachronisms and odd manners of speech that may be found within. Clever! Throughout the book, the sidebars provide annotations by Tom Olam, Grey Morrolan etc. on Da Vinci’s theses. Structurally, the book is a combination of historical fact 8surprisingly well-researched!), tinted by a bias that can be assumed to represent that of Da Vinci, with events in our Europe providing often the inspiration for the different types of “Ingenium” herein – clever to use that term to differentiate these machines from regular engines.

Now, the lead-in is similarly smart: Da Vinci’s recorded notion of tank-like devices ultimately leads him into the more far-fetched designs for various kinds of ingenium within, and this very much brings me to a component of the book that needs to be praised. From the font to the parchment-like background with its brown sidebars, the book aesthetically really enhances the basic idea of the notebook, but the true benefit? The thing that really hammers home the idea and the illusion of having Da Vinci’s lost notebook in your hands? That would be the illustrations by James Higgins. Each ingenium within features its own Da Vinci-style drawing, and if the text and banter in the sidebars won’t get you inspired to implement these ingeniums, then the glorious drawings will.

So, your players can find the notebooks, what will they find within? Well, for one, one of the most delightful reading experiences I’ve had in a long while in a roleplaying game supplement – the deliberate decision to interject historical commentary in-between the respective ingenium write-ups makes the book read like a blending of a diary and a proto-scientist’s notes, spanning the years of up to 1502. Of course, the test-runs in such a magick-deprived world as ours may result in all manner of at times tragic, at times hilarious consequences for the genius…and the reader gets to share in that.

But why bother with this book, you ask? There are so many books to take inspiration from regarding magical devices out there, so many spells and magic devices/items out there. What’s different here? Well, there is one crucial difference here, and it is entwined with Castle Falkenstein’s magic(k) system.

WAIT. I know. If one thing in the game needs some revision and clarification, it’s the magick system. It is per se inspired and mighty once you understand how to use it, but its presentation has to be labeled as byzantine. However, the system also has one gigantic plus as far as I’m concerned. It explains how magic works. There is an internal logic to the limitations and ways in which magick works within the context the game; unlike many games, the rules focus on explaining the underlying principles by which magic works. Now, combining this very scientific notion of the functionality of magick, deeply ingrained in the game system with the notion of scientific devices innovated by Leonardo Da Vinci, and we have proto-magickal science that feels simply more plausible and grounded than in any other supplement I’ve read so far – it feels like, you know, depictions of magic like the ones you can find in occult literature and the manuscripts of ancient orders. Not a single ingenium stoops to the low of the dreaded “A Wizard Did it!”-syndrome. Instead, this book constantly is making full use of the quasi-mathematical precision and codification that the powerful magical system offers.

This is a subtle notion, but one that is emphasized, time and again, throughout the book, as the annotations and commentary discuss limitations and feasibility of the implementation of Leonardo Da Vinci’s designs. The combination of the very clever rules underlying Falkenstein’s magic and the conceit of Da Vinci’s design fuse in a perfect way – and it should be noted that reading the book may actually help you understand more intricate components of Falkenstein’s magick.

But what type of ingenium devices may be found within? Well, from earthquake machines to chests that disassemble contents (a kind of copyright-shredder), to devices that force targets to tell the truth to magickal steam engines, from dissolution engines to means to heal creatures of diseases, proto-fridges and the like, many of these are influenced by modern-day conveniences, but their contextualization makes them stand out as distinctly New European. Dimensional barriers, a temporal barrier, etc. – there are plenty of truly cool types of ingenium presented.

But what does that matter if it’s all flavor? Well, that’s the beauty! You see, not all devices are feasible or work as Leonardo envisioned them to; the final section of the book notes the suits, costs, operation and investment required, all in a helpful and concise manner. Similarly, and that is a definite improvement in contrast to the core rules, the rules presented for creating your own ingenium devices are actually very concise, easy to grasp and fun.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a two-column parchment-style standard with brown borders that house the copious annotations for the different chapters. As noted before, the various artworks inside deserve applause – seriously. I can’t fathom why the cover is as comparably unappealing, when the interior of the book is so awesome. The softcover I have is perfect-bound and features the name properly on the spine. As noted before, I can’t comment on the merits of the pdf iteration. Considering the low price point of the print book, I’d recommend that one, but as you know, I tend to prefer dead tree.

Edward Bolme, with the help of Mike Pondsmith and Mark Schuhmann, has crafted a book I thoroughly enjoyed – more so than the other work by Mr. Bolme I’ve read before. Written entirely (yes, even the rules!) in character, this lost notebook not only is a glorious expansion for Castle Falkenstein, it also is a great handout, and, more importantly, the supplement is a genuinely exciting reading experience. I rarely encounter roleplaying books that focus on presenting essentially a new sub-engine for a rules-system that are not a chore to read, and this is the exact opposite – a joy to peruse, and yet another all-time-classic that has aged remarkably well. If the notion even remotely excites you, get this – this book has entertained me more than the entirety of the Da Vinci’s Demons series so far.

Final verdict? Highly recommended, inspiring, 5 stars + seal of approval. Did I mention that we need more Castle Falkenstein? I’d so love to see a new edition, a new game…Hey, perhaps CD Project Red will make that game next after Cyberpunk… one may dream, right?

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Lost Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci
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Witcher: Easy Mode
by Sylviane M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/01/2019 09:48:42

Really good, get it now and you can plan a game session for tonight ! A great way to get straight to the point and get back to the Northern Realms for epic adventures ! You'll start quickly with this and could later get into the full experience with the core rulebook !



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Witcher: Easy Mode
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Witcher: Easy Mode
by Jacob Y. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/01/2019 09:23:51

Solid product that gives easily understood information for the new person to the system, if you are considering getting the full Rulebook, reading this and running a simulation or two is enough to make an informed decision. (The answer is yes buy the full rules)



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Witcher: Easy Mode
by Skuuf S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/01/2019 07:31:28

This is a really good product. If you want to get into the Witcher Tabletop RPG but are worried about its complexity, or want to get your friends interested in it, this is the perfect supplement. Even if you're like me and enjoy pouring through the core book, this PDF provides both a handy refrence doccument for GMs and a gateway drug for new players. Like everything they make, this is high quality and worth your time.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cyberpunk 2.0.2.0. The Second Edition, Version 2.01
by Scott T. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/24/2019 07:59:29

The all time classic, what else can I say. Book come in very good condition, very happy



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Cyberpunk 2.0.2.0. The Second Edition, Version 2.01
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Comme Il Faut
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/27/2019 05:37:29

An Endzeitgeist.com review

And now for something completely different! The following is a review for a Castle Falkenstein supplement, yes, but I’d wholeheartedly recommend reading the following even if you don’t play the game.

I’ve noted below where the aspects of the review come into play that are not Castle Falkenstein-specific.

Comme if faut is a 130-page supplement, with one page cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 126 pages of content. This review was move up in my reviewing queue due to me receiving a print copy of the softcover of the book. While my review is primarily based on the softcover, I also consulted the latest iteration of the pdf-version – an important difference there would be the color scheme: While the pdf’s interior is b/w, the softcover actually is blue-white – not in the classic old-school blue, but in a slightly darker, richer shade. It’s odd, but this royal blue tint, reminiscent of the beautiful ink color I used to prefer writing in, actually made the softcover more pleasant to read for me, felt a bit more noble…but that may just be my own idiosyncratic chain of associations.

As far as organization is concerned, the book can be separated into roughly two parts – the first part very much applies to pretty much all settings that employ a sense of Edwardian or Victorian aesthetics, and takes up pretty precisely 2/3rds of the book, while the second part, around 40 pages, deals with rules and Castle Falkenstein-specific components. Let us start with this second part for now. We kick off with 8 new abilities that include Craftsmanship, Gambling, Invention, Leadership, Mesmerism, Motoring, Natural Sciences and Riding. 3 roles (barrister, clergyman and police inspector) may also be found, before we get a couple of alternate rules suggestions – though a few of them, like the suggestion of Tarot-substitutions, have since then been implemented in more detail and panache by J Gray in his Fat Goblin Games-published Variations of the Great Game-series. A quick and dirty Cyberpunk/Falkenstein-crossover guide, before providing something I very much enjoyed: One of the criticisms fielded against Castle Falkenstein would be that the spellcasting engine’s presentation is somewhat byzantine, and as such, having detailed examples and sample spells presented is helpful indeed. Once you grasp the entirety of the system, groups favoring a slightly more grounded tone might wish to limit the potency of spells, and as such, several suggestions are provided to limit spellcasting in various ways. Tables listing lore books and thaumic costs by book, a spell-cheat-sheet and a FAQ for spells further help you handle the perhaps most daunting component of Castle Falkenstein’s rules. (Indeed, in my book, the only component I’d consider daunting.)

Beyond that, we are introduced to the notions of cantrips and wards – the former being everyday magic, while the latter represent protective measures for the abodes of wizards, which includes warnings and automated counterspells. The supplement also presents a couple of different unaligned sorcery-groups, and then proceeds to dive one step further into the nit and grit of the sorcery system by examining harmonics -. A handy table on the page is basically a must-have for hosts – copy/print it out, tape it to your screen. You’ll thank me later.

A big plus would also be the advice provided for hosts to make the game less beholden to the rules – using common sense and how to use Player Rank in relation to Feats to determine success. The abilities all get their own write-up, with sample capability-levels for each Rank provided, as well as descriptions for the respective results – this type of thing is really helpful for not only hosts, but GMs, and is a type of teaching that I’d love to see more often in games.

Oh, and guess what? This book features LARP rules for Castle Falkenstein! Considering that there’s an annual Victorian picnic at the Welt Gotik Treffen, this really made me wish that the system was better known! But I digress. The last section here is basically a host-guideline that walks you through using mystery, science-fiction, romantic, secret agent, horror and faerie tale themes in your Castle Falkenstein game. A Who’s Who timeline and city maps for München (Munich), Wien (Vienna), Paris, London and Berlin represent the final part of this book.

UNIVERSALLY RELEVANT part of the review starts now! Please bear with me for a second.

So, we all know that history, in a sense, is a conventionalized narrative supported by facts that we’ve agreed upon; from our grasp of history, we have plenty of ideas about previous ages, and these ideas influence directly our roleplaying game experience. Of course, if you’ve ever been to a Renaissance fair, you’ll have noted plenty of people that obviously either consciously appropriate aesthetics, or that are simply ignorant of them. If you’re like me and very interested in history and culture, you’ll also have encountered a rather peculiar phenomenon: While it is rather easy to have a decent grasp of the politics of a given age, the same cannot necessarily be said about culture.

Most famously, the Middle Ages were indeed rather dirty and by today’s standards, probably rather smelly, but at the same time, hygienic, the black death etc. notwithstanding were not as bad as we generally tend to assume. Similarly, the appropriation of Victorian and Edwardian aesthetics by the gothic subculture and media inspired by the visual language that sprang from it, may have colored how we can think of these eras, but once we try to get into the details, things become harder to research.

This is where “Comme il faut” comes in, and it is why this book has appeal far beyond the confines of the Castle Falkenstein system/setting. Of course, it should be noted that Tom Olam once more provides the often humorous and fun to read in-character perspective that renders the book easy and fun to read. If you’ve read some old fiction and classics, you’ll be aware that the mores have significantly changed, and researching those, well, is not as simple as one would expect. We’re all cognizant of the classic notion of women not bearing their ankles in those times, of the posts of a piano being considered to be sexual and similar aspects that may seem abstruse by today’s hyper-sexualized standards, but how would all of that work within the frame of a roleplaying game without breaking the fun of the players involved, which are bound to include women?

Enter this book, a comprehensive guide to all things proper and the less well-known components of culture that vastly enhances the roleplaying game experience. You see, we do know about despicable notions like those exemplified by the now notorious “Angel in the House”, but a) these only ever depicted the seeming portrayed, the ideal, and not the reality (otherwise, the world would be rather empty in the aftermath of the ostensible social mores of the age) and b) New Europa is not history – as such, indebted to the high-adventure aesthetics, this book strikes a fantastic balance by walking the tightrope between historic accuracy and the demands of fun in the context of a roleplaying game – as such, lady adventurers and the like are covered in detail, with the oscillation of Tom Olam’s narrative and excerpts from Lady Agatha’s writings on proper behavior providing a nuanced and enlightening reading experience that is great to read.

You see, there is a very distinct commitment to keeping up proper appearances, to not making a scene, to trying to appear/be actually good; in a way, this may be a romanticized notion, but it is one that enhances the fun that we have with the game. The commitment of explaining the details of everyday culture and social protocol, usually utterly dull, are handled in rather intriguing ways: We begin with the basic ideal behaviors for the genders, and an extensive guideline is provided for LARP games and how to get the proper attire if you are NOT living in New Europa, anno 1875! The well-dressed gentleman and lady are explained in detail – did you, for example, know that memorizing the knots that tie a Lady’s corset is absolutely crucial if you are planning a dalliance? They can be a kind of control mechanism to check for infidelity. Such dalliances btw. are covered in detail – after all, Castle Falkenstein is a game of high romance! These are, just in case you didn’t know, as Assignations, and there are plenty of unwritten rules governing how and when to properly conduct them.

When? Yep, and the book walks you, step-by-step, through a day in the life of a proper gentleman. The influence of the fantastic Steam Age is evident in details that extend, for example to the habits of decorating houses, and e.g. how to handle the Faerie. Indeed, fully-mapped country homes and what to expect, proper etiquette at balls and in clubs, parlor games, typical schedules – the supplement is suffused with details upon details, painting a vivid picture of a society that never was. Charitable works are also explained in their importance. Gossip and news are provided, with two pages of topics and headlines included for the inspiration of the host. Going one step further, we receive a great step-by-step explanation of the roles of different servants from butler to parlormaid – and whether to tip them, how to handle Assignations with them, if the like should happen, etc. – and who to bribe for what, who and how to tip them, and so on. Do you know whom to bribe for all-access? Did you know how an unmarried woman is supposed to dress for a ball? Well, after perusing this handy book, you will.

Dueling etiquette, proper addressing of royalty and aristocracy, currency and their conversion rates, formal courting – there is not a single relevant topic that is not covered within. Dealing with military men, how to conduct yourself in races and regattas – all covered. Beyond that, Victorian values are properly explained alongside the art of making a call: And yes, here it will be rather helpful to have understood the hierarchy of the help… The art of traveling by sea and air as well as railway is also depicted in surprising detail, with railway lines and sample maps provided for your immediate convenience…and yep, these can be employed as handouts.

An explanation of how the xenophobia of the age works in the context of modern sensibilities, and an explanation of the epoch’s zeitgeist concludes this section of the book. And before you ask: Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the book contains a metric ton of further-reading bibliography-suggestions, should you desire to dive further into the subject matters broached.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are good on a formal level, very good on a rules-language level – I only noticed a few typos like a double “ii” and stuff like that. Layout adheres to an elegant, stylish 2-column b/w (or blue-white)-standard, and the book comes with perfectly-suitable, neat artworks by Charles Dana Gibson, who provides a unified and gorgeous, distinct aesthetic. The pdf’s scan has two thin scan-lines running down on most pages, so that’s a minor drawback. On the plus-side, the pdf does comes with extensive, nested bookmarks, allowing for easy and comfortable navigation. Personally, I’d advise in favor of the print version, as the softcover will be used a LOT; indeed, it is one of the few RPG-supplements I find myself returning to time and again – for details, for inspiration, or to just enjoy the well-wrought prose.

Michael Pondsmith, Barrie Rosen, Hilary Ayers, Gilbert Milner and Ross “Spyke” Winn – ladies and gentlemen, you have my utmost gratitude. Why? Because “Comme il faut” is one of my all-time favorite roleplaying game supplements, system and setting notwithstanding. If you even have a remote interest in Victorian culture, then consider this to be a must-buy offering that will inspire you for years to come; whether you enjoy the more advanced Ravenloft-domains, Cthulhu by gaslight or one of the countless other games set in a version of the age, this delivers information you never get to see in roleplaying game supplements, that you’d usually have to extract from often painfully dull books and then tweak to our sensibilities and use in the game. Here, all of this work has been done for you, and not in any old manner, but in a timeless way that holds up perfectly to this date. This may be an old supplement, but I’d consider it to be one of the very few truly timeless RPG-books.

In short: ”Comme il faut” is one of the best roleplaying games supplements I own; it is an inspired purchase for just about any GM, and an exercise in depicting a culture different from our contemporary one, which can provide plenty of inspiration when for example designing your own cultures. When extracting the design paradigm from these pages, you can benefit from this book in an enormous manner, even if you’re neither interested in the epoch or the game. Yes, that good.

As such, it should come as no surprise that I consider this to be one of the few books that deserve my “Best of…”-tag, that it is most assuredly an “EZG-Essential”, denoting that I consider it to be highly recommended reading for any host or GM out there, and unsurprisingly, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval. If you want to get a good glimpse of why Castle Falkenstein is still so beloved by its fan-base, look no further than this masterpiece.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Comme Il Faut
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Cyberpunk 2.0.2.0. The Second Edition, Version 2.01
by Jonathan M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/13/2019 09:47:52

I bought the original boxed set almost 30 years ago. It was my introduction into RPGs, and I couldn't get enough. While some of the technology list now appears dated this many years later, it is fun to see what they thought could happen. I also like the d10 system. It's an intersting take on how to accomplish actions. This is also a deadly system. There isn't a lot of handholding, and characters can die easily. I enjoy it, and was happy to pick up the PDF so I could have this classic RPG back in my collection.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cyberpunk 2.0.2.0. The Second Edition, Version 2.01
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Cyberpunk 2.0.2.0. The Second Edition, Version 2.01
by Pierre S [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/30/2019 14:42:44

Way back in 1982 or so I was moved by the film BLADE RUNNER (which you could call film noir as much as cyberpunk) and the book Neuromancer by William Gibson. The cyberpunk genre is edgy and gripping and can be summed up as, "high-tech, low morals," where heroism is relative and good people may be forced into bad situations.

R. Talsorian Games' first edition CYBERPUNK game (released in 1988) was set in 2013 (!), but the pumped-up second edition set in 2020 (and also alluding to version 2.0) is spelled CYBERPUNK 2.0.2.0. In this .pdf (version 2.01), a lot of errata are corrected, but some of the artwork is from European artists which differs from the first print release.

The basic game mechanic is to roll as high as you can with what we now call an "exploding" or "cascading" d10 roll. For a given task a Difficulty Level is decided upon. Then you take a basic character Stat, add the Skill level in a skill related to that stat, and add a single d10 to see if the total equals or beats that Difficulty. If you roll a 10 on the d10, add 10 to the Stat and Skill but roll again and add that. If you roll another 10, add it to the total and roll yet again until you have anything but a 10. So there's always one chance in 10 of improved rolls, one chance in 100 of much-improved rolls, etc. This adds an appropriate amount of "critical hit" thrills. But getting a roll of 1 (on the first throw) is a failure, with a check to be made on the Fumble Table to see if there are further ill-effects.

Generate characters according to 9 futuristic character types called Roles. You not only roll stats but spend a number of points on skills appropriate to the Role, and also follow the Lifepath tables which bring out events which happened to a character -- their back-story, in other words.

The rules-mechanics are supported by a richly-detailed social setting. Society is in decay: gleaming corporate enclaves are next to squalid poverty, although the homeless may be quite well-off, their needs taken care of with technical gear, street-food and rent-a-coffins for sleep. There are extensive listings for technical gear of the near-future, but sometimes they guessed at the future wrong (cellphones are still flip-phones, newspapers are constantly updated and printed in a fax style from the newsbox, and the Soviet Union is still a thing!) The Netrunner character can hack in the Virtual Reality Internet of the future, which is represented on a two-dimensional map-grid as opposed to the "lines and nodes" system of the original edition. The hacker's attempts to break-in to steal data are shown as physical movements, but are opposed by security programs called ICE which resemble horrible fiends online. See if you can get in and out with your brain-cells intact. The players of Netrunner characters (and the GM) should know the Netrunning rules cold, so as not to keep the other players waiting too long to do something. This is crucial as in other "cyberpunk" RPGs.

A sample adventure and "screamsheets" (10 newsfax articles from the future with short adventure outlines) are also included. This is a massive 250+ page rulebook that solidly covers what you will need for the genre.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Witcher Pen & Paper RPG
by Roger L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/16/2019 15:50:13

https://www.teilzeithelden.de/2019/03/16/ersteindruck-the-witcher-trpg-abenteuer-in-der-welt-des-hexers/

Die Videospielreihe rund um Geralt den Hexer gilt als Vorzeigestück des Rollenspiel-Genres und hat die düstere Fantasywelt aus der Feder des polnischen Autors Andrzej Sapkowski weltberühmt gemacht. Jetzt wagt sich Publisher CD Project Red mit dem Witcher-Franchise auf das Pen & Paper-Parkett.

Krieg, Rassismus, Pogrome, Intrigen, Verrat, Raub, Mord und Totschlag – der Einband des Pen & Paper-Grundregelwerks zu The Witcher lügt nicht, wenn er „adventures in the dark and dangerous world of the witcher“ verspricht.

Die Spielwelt Die Welt des Hexers präsentiert sich im Buch, wie sie im letzten Teil der populären Videospielreihe, The Witcher 3 – Wild Hunt, zu sehen ist: Der dritte Nilfgaardische Krieg ist in vollem Gange und die ewig zerstrittenen nördlichen Königreiche liegen im Krieg mit dem riesenhaften Imperium, das sich von Süden her unerbittlich ausbreitet. Hunger und Not haben die Landbevölkerung fest im Griff. Kriegsbanden, Marodeure und Banditen machen das Land unsicher. Rassismus, Hass und Gewalt gegen alles, was nicht menschlich oder sonst irgendwie übernatürlich ist, grassieren. Vor allem einige Elfen und Zwerge wehren sich verbissen. Sie führen einen erbarmungslosen Guerillakrieg gegen die Menschen und machen dabei auch vor brutaler Gewalt gegen Zivilisten keinen Halt.

Die Botschaft ist deutlich: Das wahre Monster ist oft genug der Mensch (oder auch der Elf, Zwerg oder Halbling) selbst. Aber auch an wortwörtlichen Monstern herrscht inder Welt des Hexers kein Mangel: Diverse Bestien, Geister und Dämonen suchen das Land und seine Bewohner heim. Zum Schutz der Menschheit gibt es deshalb die Hexer: Zaubermächtige Mutanten, die als fahrende Monstertöter durchs Land ziehen und mit Silberschwert, Zaubertränken und Hexerei den Ungeheuern den Garaus machen – gegen Bezahlung, versteht sich.

Artwork aus The Witcher TRPG © R. Talsorian Games Es ist eine Welt der Grauschattierungen, in der echte Helden und Sympathieträger selten sind. Gerade dieser Mangel an genretypischer Schwarz-Weiß-Malerei und der oft fehlende klare moralische Kompass machen den Reiz der Witcher-Welt aus. Das Regelwerk selbst bringt es auf den Punkt: „This isn’t epic fantasy“. Wie die Geschichten um dem Hexer Geralt, Yennefer, Ciri, Rittersporn und Konsorten soll sich das Spiel hauptsächlich um das Überwinden persönlicher Probleme der Helden drehen, nicht unbedingt um die Rettung des Königreichs.

Die große Politik und Ereignisse von epischen Ausmaßen dienen der Geschichte eher als Kulisse denn als eigentlicher Inhalt. Dieser Spielstil ist allerdings nur als Empfehlung der Autoren zu verstehen, nicht als Zwang. Das Regelwerk gewährt große spielerische Freiheit – Eine Kampagne mit gänzlich anderen Schwerpunkten ist definitiv möglich.

Regeln Mit R. Talsorian Games hat sich CD Project Red (CDPR) die Spieleschmiede ins Boot geholt, die vor allem für das immer noch recht bekannte Cyberpunk 2020 berühmt ist. Dessen Videospiel-Adaption Cyberpunk 2077 ist derzeit bei CDPR in Arbeit – die Auswahl genau dieses Partners wundert daher wenig. Die Autoren Cody und Lisa Pondsmith sind Sohn und Ehefrau von Cyberpunk-Schöpfer Mike Pondsmith, der auch selbst im Layout mitgewirkt hat.

Als Regelbasis dient eine stark überarbeitete, auf das Fantasy-Setting und die Witcher-Hintergrundwelt zugeschnittene Variante des Interlock-Systems, auf dem auch Cyberpunk 2020 beruht. Dabei gibt sich das Regelwerk viel Mühe, das Flair von The Witcher 3 aufzugreifen – vermutlich vor allem, damit sich Quereinsteiger aus dem Videospiel-Bereich wohl fühlen und schneller zurechtfinden. Hier und da wirkt das System dadurch etwas videospielartig, etwa bei der Ausrüstung.

Hier gibt es, wie bei vielen Videospiel-RPGs üblich, ein steil ansteigendes Macht-Niveau. Das billigste Schwert etwa verursacht 2W6+2 Punkte Schaden, das teuerste 6W6, seltene Artefakte sogar noch deutlich mehr. Während das Belohnungssystem von Loot-Junkies und Charakter-Optimierern hier stark angesprochen wird, kommen Fans von fantastischem Realismus und ausgefeiltem Balancing eher nicht auf ihre Kosten.

The Witcher verwendet ausschließlich sechs- und zehnseitige Würfel. Selten werden mithilfe von zwei Zehnseitern auch Prozentwürfe simuliert. Das Regelsystem basiert auf neun Attributen und einer Reihe von Fertigkeiten, normalerweise jeweils mit einem Wert von 0 bis 10, die zu einem Basiswert zusammengezählt werden. Bei Proben wird ein W10 gewürfelt und zum Basiswert addiert. Die erwürfelte Gesamtsumme wird dann mit einem vom Spielleiter festgelegten Schwierigkeitswert – oder aber, bei direkter Konfrontation, mit dem Ergebnis des Kontrahenten – verglichen.

Ist der erzielte Wert höher als die festgelegte Schwierigkeit oder das gegnerische Ergebnis, gelingt die Probe. Das Talent-System in The Witcher ist breit aufgestellt und erlaubt es, alle möglichen alltäglichen Fähigkeiten abzubilden. Für eine minutiöse Alltagssimulation reicht die Auswahl nicht unbedingt, trotzdem ist das System definitiv weit mehr als ein Dungeon Crawler und es lassen sich damit alle möglichen Arten von Kampagnen gestalten.

Wie Cyberpunk 2020 ist auch The Witcher ein klassenbasiertes System mit insgesamt neun spielbaren Klassen: Barde, Handwerker, Krimineller, Arzt, Zauberer, Krieger, Händler, Priester und Hexer (jeweils sinngemäß übersetzt). Jede Klasse hat eine exklusive Fertigkeit und Zugriff auf einen kleinen Talentbaum mit weiteren zur Profession passenden Spezialfähigkeiten. Ein Klassenwechsel oder Mehrfach-Klassen sind, jedenfalls im Grundregelwerk, nicht vorgesehen.

Die spielbaren Spezies im Grundregelwerk sind Mensch, Elf, Zwerg und Hexer. Jede Spezies hat spielrelevante Eigenschaften und Boni. Die Auswahl ist frei, anders als bei anderen bekannten Systemen müssen keine Punkte oder andere Ressourcen ausgegeben werden, um eine bestimmte Spezies spielen zu dürfen. Andere Spezies oder Mischlinge wie Halbelfen sind vorläufig nicht spielbar, mit der ersten Erweiterung Lords and Lands sind aber Halblinge als neue spielbare Spezies angekündigt.

Charakterbau Die Charaktererschaffung in The Witcher ist einfach und unbürokratisch gehalten. Wenn man einigermaßen konzentriert vorgeht, ist eine Charaktererschaffung auch ohne Vorerfahrung ungefähr in einer Stunde zu schaffen. Der Spieler wählt zunächst Geschlecht, Spezies und Herkunft seines Charakters aus. Der folgende Schritt ist ungewöhnlich, macht aber einen besonderen Reiz des Systems aus: Der Spieler erwürfelt den persönlichen Hintergrund und Werdegang seines Charakters, angefangen bei der Familiensituation über die Kindheit, das Beziehungs- und Liebesleben und prägende Ereignisse seines bisherigen Lebens. Darunter können sowohl Glücksfälle als auch Rückschläge sein.

So kann ein Charakter beispielsweise mit Schulden, einem Todfeind oder auch einer Suchtkrankheit ins Spiel starten, aber auch mit Beziehungen, mehr Startkapital oder verbesserten Fertigkeiten. Der deprimierende Grundton der Witcher-Welt macht auch vor dem Lebenslauf-Generator nicht halt. Kaum ein so erschaffener Charakter kommt aus einer heilen Welt, hat zwei lebendige Eltern und nicht wenigstens eine Leiche im Keller. Oft ergibt sich daraus ganz von selbst das Grundgerüst für eine lebendige Hintergrundgeschichte und Anknüpfungspunkte für persönliche Plots und Storylines.

Es ist allerdings auch möglich und kann sehr frustrierend sein, wenn auf diese Weise ein Charakter mit nichts als Nachteilen ins Spiel startet, die sich teilweise recht stark auswirken können. Alle Schritte des Lebenslauf-Moduls sind, vielleicht gerade deshalb, optional. Wer seinen Charakter lieber etwas planvoller ausarbeiten will, kann auf das Auswürfeln einfach verzichten.

Im Anschluss folgt dann die Auswahl der Charakterklasse und die Verteilung von Attributs- und Fertigkeitspunkten. Jeder Charakter erhält festgelegte Punkte, die er verteilen kann. Welche Fertigkeiten gewählt werden können, hängt von der Charakterklasse ab. Jeder Charakter erhält aber zusätzlich auch Punkte für sonstige Fertigkeiten. Ein Händler kann so auch zum passablen Kämpfer, ein Krieger auch zum fähigen Dieb und ein Arzt auch zum passablen Handwerker ausgebaut werden.

Kampfsystem Das Kampfsystem ist schnell, schnörkellos und tödlich – Kämpfe dauern in der Regel nur wenige Kampfrunden und kommen ohne seitenweise komplexe Sonderregeln aus. Die Grundlage ist ein klassisches Hitpoint-System mit rudimentärem Trefferzonen-Modell. Ein einzelner glücklicher Treffer, selbst mit einer kleinen Waffe wie einem Dolch, kann einen Kampf bereits beenden und auch schwere Rüstung macht einen Charakter alles andere als unverwundbar. Der eigentliche Dreh- und Angelpunkt des Kampfsystems sind kritische Treffer. Wann immer ein Angriff deutlich besser gelingt als die entsprechende Verteidigung, landet der Angreifer einen kritischen Treffer.

Abhängig von der Qualität der Attacke und der getroffenen Trefferzone kann das ein verlorener Zahn, gebrochene Rippen, eine Gehirnerschütterung oder auch ein Schädelbasisbruch sein, schlimmstenfalls sogar der unmittelbare Verlust von Arm, Bein oder gar Kopf. Man erkennt den Versuch der Autoren, hier die „Finisher“-Moves aus The Witcher 3, mit denen Protagonist Geralt seine Gegner so bildgewaltig wie brutal verhackstückt, in das Spiel einfließen zu lassen.

Magie Das Magie-Kapitel ist überschaubar. Es gibt drei magische Klassen mit jeweils eigenen Zaubern: Magier, Priester und Hexer. Erstgenannte verfügen über Sprüche in verschiedenen Graden, Hexer bleiben auf die aus den Videospielen bekannten Hexer-Zeichen beschränkt. Ein Großteil der Sprüche sind Kampfzauber, es gibt aber durchaus auch eine Reihe von anderen nützlichen Zaubern wie etwa Heilung, Teleportation oder Geisteskontrolle. Darüber hinaus gibt es außerdem Rituale und „Hexes“ (Flüche), die bestimmte Vorbereitungen erfordern.

Eine Ressource wie Mana gibt es bei The Witcher nicht, gezaubert wird mit Ausdauer, die sich schnell regeneriert. Das führt dazu, dass Zauberer, verglichen mit anderen Systemen, ihre Magie sehr häufig einsetzen können. Wie beispielsweise bei Shadowrun riskiert ein Zauberer aber körperliche Verletzungen, wenn er beim Zaubern zu viel Kraft einsetzt.

Insgesamt 27 Seiten widmet The Witcher der Herstellung von Ausrüstung und alchemistischen Substanzen. Hinzu kommt, allerdings an anderer Stelle, ein kurzer Abschnitt zur Herstellung von Hexer-Ausrüstung und -Tränken und experimentellen Waffen wie Bomben und Fallen. Die Herstellungsregeln sind rudimentär und legen nur wenig Wert auf Immersion. Wie in der Videospiel-Vorlage braucht es den passenden Bauplan bzw. die Rezeptur und die nötigen Materialien, dann würfelt der Handwerker eine Probe und hat im Erfolgsfall das fragliche Ding hergestellt.

Großartige Ausführungen zu Herstellungsmethoden, Werkstätten oder ähnlichem gibt es nicht, die Spielmechanik steht im Vordergrund. Nahezu alles, was an Ausrüstung im Buch aufgeführt wird, kann etwa zu zwei Drittel des Ladenpreises hergestellt werden und das Regelwerk preist Crafting auch vor allem als Möglichkeit an, billiger an begehrte Gegenstände heran zu kommen. Außerdem können Handwerker Ausrüstungsgegenstände reparieren und auf spezielle Weise verbessern.

Durch den knappen, nüchternen Aufbau der Regeln fühlt sich das Ganze aber eher wie in einem Videospiel an: Nimm zwei Einheiten Eisen, eine Einheit Holz und zwei Einheiten Leder, würfle eine Probe und voilá, fertig ist das Schwert. Dank tragbarer Reise-Schmiede geht das sogar bequem unterwegs.

Material für Spielleiter Zusätzlich zu den Spielregeln umfasst das Grundregelwerk ein 31-seitiges Kapitel, das die Spielwelt näher vorstellt. Hier sind die wesentlichen Informationen übersichtlich und komprimiert zusammengestellt. Gerade für Witcher-Neulinge ist diese Spielhilfe sehr nützlich. Hinzu kommt auf 25 Seiten ein Leitfaden für Spielleiter, der SL-Neulinge an die Hand nimmt und eine Menge nützliche Tipps zum Leiten an sich und zum Aufbau von Abenteuern, Kampagnen und Rahmengeschichten liefert.

Die Spielleitersektion umfasst darüber hinaus eine Sammlung mit 20 ausgearbeiteten Gegnern, darunter die bekanntesten Monster, aber auch gewöhnliche Bedrohungen wie Wölfe oder Banditen. Dazu kommen einige Werte für häufige Tierarten. Auf längere Dauer dürfte diese Liste für abwechslungsreiche Abenteuer nicht ausreichen, für ein paar erste Ausflüge in die Welt des Hexers und den einen oder spannenden Hexer-Auftrag reicht die Auswahl aber allemal.

Zu guter Letzt enthält das Buch außerdem ein 7-seitiges, voll ausgearbeitetes Einsteiger-Abenteuer inklusive Karten und NPC, das gerade einer Neueinsteiger-Runde einen einfachen Einstieg ermöglichen soll.

Gestaltung und Erscheinungsbild Das Grundregelwerk von The Witcher kommt als A4-Hardcover in Vollfarbe mit 336 Seiten daher. Die Seiten sind glänzend gehalten, der Druck wirkt insgesamt wertig. Das Papier ist allerdings merklich dünner, als man es von preislich vergleichbaren Grundregelwerken gewohnt ist.

Das gesamte Buch ist randvoll mit Concept Art und Illustrationen aus den Witcher-Videospielen. Die Bilder sind fast durchweg sehr dekorativ und von guter Qualität, allerdings ist bei vereinzelten Illustrationen die Auslösung missglückt. So schön die Bilder aber sind, insgesamt wirkt die Illustration etwas sehr reichlich.

Ebenfalls enthalten sind eine rudimentäre Übersichtskarte des namenlosen Kontinents und eine leider unschön zurecht geschnittene Detailkarte der nördlichen Königreiche.

Das Layout wirkt insgesamt modern und gut strukturiert. Es gibt Randspalten mit hilfreichen Erläuterungen und farblich voneinander abgesetzte Kapitel zu den jeweiligen Themenbereichen. Außerdem hat das Regelwerk einen Index, der das Nachschlagen sehr erleichtert. Allerdings ist die Anordnung der einzelnen Kapitel hin und wieder nur schwer nachvollziehbar und Dinge, die eigentlich in einen Block gehören würden, sind auf verschiedene Stellen im Buch verteilt.

Außerdem finden sich im Layout hin und wieder größere Schnitzer, beispielsweise in der Größe verrutschte Textkästen. Wesentlich ärgerlicher ist, dass die erste Print-Auflage jede Menge inhaltliche Fehler aufweist, zu denen Talsorian bereits umfangreiche digitale Errata nachgereicht hat. Die Nutzbarkeit der Druckausgabe leidet deutlich darunter, was gemessen am Preis sicherlich Grund für Frustration ist. In der aktuellen PDF-Ausgabe des Regelwerks sind die Errata hingegen schon eingepflegt, die Layout-Fehler wurden allerdings längst noch nicht alle korrigiert.

Ausblick Zum gegenwärtigen Zeitpunkt gibt es ausschließlich das Grundregelwerk. Die Erweiterung Lords and Lands (enthält einen Spielleiterschirm, eine NPC-Sammlung, eine neue Klasse und eine neue Spezies), das Monsterhandbuch A Witcher’s Journal und die Abenteuersammlung The Witcher’s Book of Tales sind in Arbeit, haben aber alle noch kein konkretes Erscheinungsdatum.

Zum Free RPG Day am 15. Juni 2019 soll außerdem das 24-seitige kostenlose Light-Regelwerk The Witcher Tabletop Game: Easy Mode erscheinen, sowohl digital, als auch gedruckt. Eine deutsche Übersetzung des Grundregelwerks als PDF und Printausgabe ist bei Truant Spiele in Arbeit, als Erscheinungsdatum wird die RPC 2019 genannt, die mittlerweile in der CCXP Cologne 2019 aufgegangen ist. Das wäre der 27. Juni.

Fazit The Witcher ist ein solides Fantasy-Grundregelwerk, das alles enthält, was ein Grundregelwerk braucht. Die vergleichsweise geringe Komplexität macht es attraktiv für Einsteiger, und das sicherlich mit voller Absicht. Wer von den Witcher-Abenteuern am Bildschirm schon nicht genug bekommen konnte, findet hier einen guten Einstieg ins Pen & Paper-Hobby und wird sich durch die vertraute Aufmachung und inhaltliche Gestaltung schnell zurechtfinden.

Auch für alte Hasen hat das System mit seinem einfach gestrickten Regelset ohne viel Schnickschnack und dem knackigen, harten Kampfsystem sicherlich seine Reize. Das Regelwerk begünstigt wegen seiner schlanken Linie eher ein freies narratives Spiel, in dem nicht alles minutiös durch geregelt ist. Das lässt SL und Spielern zwar mehr Freiheiten – wer hohe Komplexität und Regeldichte liebt, wird hier aber eindeutig nicht zufrieden gestellt.

Wie andere Talsorian-Rollenspiele bleibt aber auch The Witcher ein ungeschliffener Edelstein mit etlichen Ecken und Kanten. Das Regelwerk lässt an vielen Stellen Fragen offen, häufig sind Formulierungen unklar und überlassen Spielleiter und Spielern die Auslegung. Wirklich unspielbare Regeln oder massive Regellücken sind bei der Sichtung und beim Testspiel zwar keine aufgefallen, wer allerdings ein Regelwerk sucht, das alle Eventualitäten abdeckt und keinen großen Interpretationsspielraum schafft, greift besser nicht zu The Witcher.

Für einige vergnügliche Abenteuer in der Hexer-Welt ist das Regelwerk eindeutig zu empfehlen. Die Grundregeln sind vollständig, größer angelegte Kampagnen sind ebenfalls vorstellbar. Allerdings wird die enthaltene Auswahl an Optionen, Charakter-Ausbaumöglichkeiten, Ausrüstung und Gegnern auf lange Sicht gesehen vermutlich für die meisten Gruppen nicht genügend Abwechslung bieten. Das System ist jedoch so einfach aufgebaut, dass sich eigene Ideen und Hausregeln leicht einfügen lassen dürften, ohne dadurch ein fragiles Balancing in Gefahr zu bringen.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Witcher Pen & Paper RPG
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Firestorm: Shockwave
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/29/2019 07:46:18

This book covers the second part of the Fourth Corporate War, following on from Firestorm: Stormfront. The war has moved from the initial ocean-based dispute through a conflict between Arasaka and Militech, who'd been hired by opposite sides and ended up fighting each other directly, and now escalates into what is termed the Hot War - a full-on global conflict with tanks ploughing through cities, aerial and orbital bombardments... all the trappings of a conventional war only its corporations who have quarreled, not nation states. There's a quick summary of the first two phases, don't bother with it, get hold of the first volume: it's more fun if the party have seen (if not participated in) the build up to the current point.

Like its sister volume, this book is more sourcebook than scenario collection, although you'll find plenty of ideas for how to get your party involved. There's lots of background information, new gear and new skills that may be found of use even if somehow your 'punks manage to stay out of the conflict. It all begins with a timeline and overview of the first month of the war from the standpoint of Lazarus Corporation. Hitherto uninvolved, this massive mercenary corporation has to decide whether or not to jump into the fray. There's a technical briefing covering new equipment and the skills required to use it, even new Roles for those so inclined, and an Adventures chapter packed with ideas and a full adventure. There's also a promise - as yet unkept - of the third volume to cover the outcome of the war.

Chapter 1: The Hot War is a collection of material beginning with a report from a Solo of Fortune correspondent (who is, needless to say, as interested in the actual weapons as in who is wielding them!). He describes a 'special operations war' with a series of strikes but no discenable battlefront, claims that both sides' R&D departments are field-testing everything they've got, and predicts hostilities won't end until Arasaka and Militech have bled each other dry. We then move on to a fly-on-the-wall account of a high-level meeting at Lazarus, analysing events so far and speculating on future developments. There's a sidebar on electronic warfare, and others on how the war is affecting the stock market, the effect on global fuel stocks and more. One interesting point is that both parties to the conflict are increasingly relying on Edgerunners hired in. The Lazarus conclusion as to what's going on is rather interesting. We next look at how the world in general is responding, particularly of course nation-states, who hitherto have been the ones to wage war. The stance of other corporations not, as yet, involved is also covered.

Next comes an in-depth analysis of the whole background to the war, in particular the underlying emnity between Arasaka and Militech that caused what should have been an ordinary inter-corporation skirmish into all-out war. Next there's a look at likely targets in such a war, along with a world map showing their locations; and profiles of many of the major players. However, all this is a means to an end, to help you create an environment in which your party of 'punks will get embroiled in the war. To this end the next section looks at how Edgerunners are being recruited. If you've run Stormfront they are probably already involved, on one side or the other. It doesn't matter which side they are on, once in there is no discharge whilst hostilities continue. If they are not yet involved, again it doesn't matter which corporation you decide wants them, the process is much the same: they'll either try to trick them, bribe them or blackmail them into enlisting for the duration. Plenty of ideas here on how to sucker them in... And once you have got them, what then? The next section takes a look at how Edgerunners are being put to use, from grunt duty to special ops, and more.

Then comes Chapter 2: Technical Briefing. This is an eye-watering array of military hardware as well as new Roles designed for military operations: vehicle operators and pilots. Things Edgerunners don't often worry about, which become more important in the world of special operations (although in one game I ran, the party kept NPC pilots and drivers on retainer). The Panzerboy and the Aerojock await. There's also a PA Trooper, who stomps around in powered armour - and probably reckons that if he can find a suit that will scratch his back he'll marry it! This is followed by a discussion of how the standard Roles fit in to an all-out war. Solos, medtechs and techies in general can find ample opportunity, so can netrunners, particularly those capable of mobile combat netrunning. Fixers will find angles to make money, and medias will find plenty to report on. Corporates and nomads may find fewer opportunities, but they are there if they look. The rest of the chapter contains weapons and other equipment designed with war in mind. There's armour, cyberware, combat-hardened netrunning hardware and software, equipment for the combat medic and more. Then military-grade aircraft and ground vehicles galore, as well as loads of drones and other remotely-operated devices, and powered armour. Some material is reproduced from Maximum Metal for ease of use.

There are rules for vehicle combat, and notes on urban fighting, threat levels and security rathings. These help you decide appropriate challenges... or could be something for the party to research before attempting a raid. Next we find out about the troops maintained by Arasaka and Militech. Useful intel here, whichever (if either) side the party is on. Added to this is the standing troops in North America, who may get involved when fighting rolls over into areas they are sworn to protect. We then have rules for conducting squad-level combat, and an introduction to what happens when the battlefield is enhanced - or infested, depending on your point of view - with combat netrunners.

Finally, Chapter 3: Hot War Adventures provides a wealth of ideas for involving the party, even if (at the outset at least) they don't want to actually get involved. There's a detailed timeline of the first few months, which could provide snippets of newscasts for them to hear. This is followed by information on the war's effect on ordinary life. That will impact on your 'punks wherever they happen to be in the world, in the Net or even on orbit. There's advice on refereeing a war situation, and plenty of ideas for missions to give those characters who have enlisted (willingly or not) with either side. This, of course, includes the likely responses of whichever government thinks it has jurisdiction over wherever the mission takes place. And there's plenty for those who've decided their best bet is to stay out of the war... and not solely confined to ensuring that they get mixed up in it anyway. There is a collection of locales for events to take place - a mobile supply centre, an apartment block, a corporate enclave, a corporate tower, a munitions factory - all with ideas for attacking, defending or just being in the wrong place when an attack goes down. Then comes the endgame of the war, when governments finally take action. This leads on to a full-blown adventure scenario that puts your 'punks right in the middle of events. Will they help bring the war to a close? Or will they destroy any chance of a peace?

All this in under 150 pages. It's amazing just how much material is here. If you want to bring war to the mean and chromed streets, this book will facilitate the mayhem.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Firestorm: Shockwave
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Chromebook 3/4
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/11/2019 09:42:41

This is the second 'compilation' Chromebook, combining the contents of books 3 and 4. It's more of a convenience thing, and the only way you can get the Chromebook series in PDF. Still there are lots of goodies for your 'punks to spend their hard-earned eurobucks on. It's all about the STYLE, choomba!

Everything's categorised so it is easy to decide where to look depending on what you are after. It starts with a general catch-all section of 'Equipment, Items and Stuff' which includes clothing, medical equipment, camping gear and more. Then there's Cyberware, Vehicles, Computers (including Decks and Peripherals), the infamous Cyberpets, and Bots and Cyberforms, this last covering robots, full-body cyborgs, and more. Finally there are some rules for maintenance of your shiny new gear.

Most items are illustrated, and are provided with in-character descriptions - well, advertising blurb, actually. Where relevant there are separate 'game notes' with any necessary stats or information about how the item will operate in game. Along with the price, of course. And there's a global price list at the back of the book.

Highlights include high fashion clothing for techies - personal protection equipment never looked so good - as well as kit to make their work easier. As I play techies when I cannot be a netrunner, this consideration to an often neglected role is appreciated. There's also a remarkable 'one-man-band' piece of kit built around a synthesier that lets a Rocker operate without a band or roadies... available in keytar or freestanding versions it brings Kraftwerk to mind.

There's lots of stuff here, whatever your role or needs might happen to be. It's well worth a browse.

[probably 4 stars, but the extra one for the handiness of getting the PDF compilation!]



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Chromebook 3/4
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Firestorm: Stormfront
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/08/2019 09:32:13

Billed as Book 1 of the Fourth Corporate War, this is primarily a sourcebook to provide background information about the war that is breaking out between Militech and Arasaka and how it's going to impact the world... and specifically, your party. It covers the first two phases of the war with maps, adventure hooks and NPCs should you choose to get them involved (and succeed in suckering them in) as well as loads of background to help you set the scene whether or not they become embroiled themselves - this is going to affect the entire world as you know it, 'punks!

We start off, though, with a bit of history. If this is the Fourth Corporate War, what came before? The first one was in 2004-2006, with a scrap over airlines escalating from the boardroom and the stock exchange into acts of terrorism, Net attacks, piracy and honest-to-goodness mercenaries battling it out, not to mention taking the war to space with one side attempting to capture the other's orbital facilities. The second one came a couple of years later when Petrochem and SovOil clashed with each other and brawled over the South China Sea. Both sides raised eyebrows by completely ignoring international law and ignoring governments in the area and causing a lot of pollution in the process - which they never cleaned up! The Third Corporate War, in 2016, was mostly fought online. Some members of Merrill, Asukaga and Finch (MA&F) were caught out in fraudulent transactions by the LA Chamber of Commerce and things went downhill from there, with the Rothstein Fund busy trying to distance themselves by not only handing over all they had to prosecutors, but sending street netrunners against MA&F's datafortress, an act to which they took a dim view. There was about a day of real-world brawling, in which net infrastructure was targeted, but most of the action was online.

So, on to Chapter 1: The Ocean War. Opening with the transcript of a news report (ideal for the party to hear one sunny morning), this then provides the background briefing produced by MA&F for their clients. It is unlikely that the party has access to this unless they've been hired by one of those clients or they hack MA&F's datafortress, easier said than done; but it's an excellent briefing for the Referee. Apparently three corporations have been competing in the area of oceanographic research and development, but recently one of them went bust and the other two are squabbling over the remains. A initial buyout attempt went sour when a senior executive of one of the survivors was kidnapped on the way to deliver the offer and things have only gone downhill from there. Developments are listed in order, and could be used as breaking news in the background to whatever the party is doing until they sit up and pay attention... at least, those bits which are public knowledge. Then it gets interesting, with MA&F's recommendations to both corporations - delivered separately, one assumes - as to what they might do next. If any of those actions appeal, have the party hired by that corporation to do the dirty work. The next section provides detailed background on all the major players, including EuroBank which has been left holding what may be worthless paper from loans to the corporation that failed. Some pivotal individuals are presented as NPCs too. This is where it gets interesting. One of the squabbling corporates uses Militech for their security needs, the other uses Arasaka. As the two security giants fulfil their contracts, clashes between them are certain to escalate...

Now, you may be prepared to just let things happen, but it's important in this kind of corporate dispute to know who's getting ahead, so a mechanic called Not Blood But Money is provided to aid you in tracking the rise and fall of corporate entities during a dispute. It doesn't have to be the ones here, you could use it for any corporate squabble. Next we get down to practical details. We know what's going on, but how can we make it relevant to the player-characters? Various reasons are given, along with sample job ads that they might be moved to answer.

Then Chapter 2: Technical Brief contains all the nuts and bolts things you need to know. Like a big map of the world showing where ALL the corporate facilities belonging to both corporations are to be found. (It's a bit small, you'll have to peer at it to make everything out.) A lot of the action will take place on or even under the water, so there are new skills like SCUBA diving and underwater demolitions that the characters might want to pick up, at least enough to be useful if expendable hired hands. For the more dedicated, there's some new roles: Divemaster and Subjock (submersible pilot) as well as Marine Biotechnician for those who want to study what's down there. (You might have a custom game that begins with the staff at a research lab belonging to one of the warring corporations suddenly finding out that things are getting very... interesting for example.) Then there are notes on modifying existing cyberware for underwater use and new specialist kit that will come in useful... not just cyberware but diving gear, underwater weapons and vehicles and so on. There are also stats and other information on some of the creatures that the party will be sharing the ocean with. All of this is useful for an underwater game, whether it's this Firestorm plotline or something else. There are even floating cities and underwater domes to visit, along with mining colonies, underwater farms and more. If you'd rather keep your feet dry, we also hear about the corporate headquarters and other dry land facilities of the combatants. Submarine pens and typical underwater assault teams are also presented here - maybe the party will meet them, or if you want a dedicated campaign, maybe your group will play one of the teams. We round up with underwater combat and adventuring rules, again of use whatever you are up to underwater.

To make use of all of the forgoing, Chapter 3: Ocean War Adventures has plenty to keep the party busy. It starts with a timeline, but promptly veers off to review a wealth of sub-plots to get involved in, before moving on to a series of mission folios which are stand-alone adventures in their own right but build up to a sequence of involvement in the corporate war propper. Plenty there to keep your 'punks busy!

We then move on to the next phase with Chapter 4: The Shadow War. The Ocean War which preceded it caused much loss of life and personnel, even those involved thought it a bit wasteful of resources, but for Arasaka and Militech it's only going to ramp up - they are now embroiled in their own right rather as proxies for the two warring corporations for which they handled security. The gloves are coming off, they are less concerned with deniability than they are with doing serious damage to the other. Back to AM&F who have been asked to produce a position paper by both Arasaka and Militech: this analyses the two corporations explaining their capabilities and actions to date. The two corporations frequently come into contention with each other in their day-to-day affairs, but the current situation has brought normal corporate rivalry to a head, and it's clear that they are both exceeding their contractual obligations. AM&F are busy offering their services to broker a peace (for a fee of course) but in the meantime have made suggestions to both sides as to their future conduct. Both have been recommended to take on more freelances, and in effect step back from direct involvement by sending them as proxies into battle rather than sending their own in-house forces. Militech in particular is urged to also hire freelance netrunners, as their cyber capabilities are inferior to those of Arasaka.

After we meet some of the major players, we find out about their aims and motivations and what their intentions are. Although both sides are holding grudges and would like to severely damage, if not obliterate, the other they are tending towards covert methods rather than engaging in all-out war. Think of it like a major escalation in scope and tempo of the sort of operations your party of streetpunks regularly get hired to undertake... but any 'punk who thinks they know what they are getting into will be wrong, even if outwardly they seem to be ordinary covert operations - theft, extractions, recon, destruction, sabotage and the like. This continues with a look at techniques, tactics and equipment for carrying out such covert operations which covers passive and active defences, and ID checks, with suggestions of how to defeat each in turn, including suggestions as to relevant game mechanics. There's a look at electronic intelligence gathering (ELINT) and a splendid section on planning a mission.

OK, now you are ready. How to get the party involved? There's a whole slew of ideas on how to inveigle them to sign up with Arasaka or Militech. Should they decline all blandishments or threats there are ideas for how to involve them anyway... This now launches the Technical Brief section with a map of Arasaka and Militech assets worldwide; new roles of Covert Specialist - something between an elite soldier, a burglar and a ninja - the Assassin (you know what they do) and the Covert Tech (the man in the van character I usually end up playing); a new skill for those wishing to indulge in ELINT; and of course there are some new toys... ahem, new equipment options. Once we have the training and the gear, there are some sample corporate facilities to try them out on. Offices, science parks, showrooms and even a bunker await. Along with the ready-made covert operations teams that come next. Play them, fight them, ally with them, it's up to you.

If you have existing characters you'd like to use, they'd probably benefit from the Covert Ops Training programme that is outlined next. This is a four week intensive programme that you might want to actually play out with the party. Both Arasaka and Militech training centres and staff are detailed for those who want to do that. Once you deem the party ready, there's a collection of adventure ideas and outlines to get you started, complete with a timeline and a news broadcast to set the scene. Of course there are subplots as well. If Arasaka and Militech square up to each other, there are plenty of others ready to take advantage... some wonderfully devious ideas there. And several 'Mission Folios' for those who'd rather be involved in the main action - which can be assassination, extraction, sabotage or more. There's plenty of information to run these without too much prep, but finally there's a full adventure called Dark Errand that sends the team to eliminate a pesky netrunner who has been messing with BOTH Arasaka and Militech! There are some epic surprises here, and survivors will find out what's been behind all this fighting.. or will they?

This is an epic resource, good for a memorable campaign - go round up some players, now. And this is only Part 1?



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Firestorm: Stormfront
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When Gravity Fails
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/01/2019 11:10:47

An interesting conceit, this sourcebook is based on the fiction of George A. Effinger and the man himself has collaborated in bringing his setting to life within the confines of the game. His foreword to the work shows how the very idea appealed to him. Set in the Middle East (which has barely been touched upon within Cyberpunk 2020 so far, apart from a note that it suffered heavy bombing) it presents a new facet- dark and mysterious, less neon and chrome, but just as dangerous and exciting!

The Introduction talks about the way in which Effinger's work appeals to those who like the cyberpunk genre, in particular his setting of a dark and dangerous Middle East, where modern technology rubs shoulders with ancient traditions and of course the Islamic faith. Of course, it's recommended that you go and read the novels, but this book should contain all you need to know to visit this fascinating corner of the world in your game. Naturally some stuff has had to be invented for the purposes of the game, and later novels may contradict it... although Effinger has approved everything that's here.

Chapter 1: History of a Alternate World presents the timeline, which runs through to 2202 - which for this setting is the 'present day' based on when the books were set. This of course makes it incompatible with the rest of the world of Cyberpunk 2020, which is of course in the year 2020... but that's not insurmountable. Fudge your dates, run it as a standalone campaign, whatever you please. In this reality, most of the world is balkanised, with monarchs and dictators replacing democracy; and our stories are set in an unnamed Middle Eastern city near enough to the Arab Federation to see its prosperity, far enough away not to share in it. There are corporations around - and a few are listed here. They operate pretty much like the 21st century ones we're used to in the game. A lot of commerce is via barter. Global warming has caused sea levels to rise, and the rest of the environment is pretty battered too. Rather than nations, it's mostly city-states and tribal areas; and there's a good overview of the state of the world in 2202.

Next, we read of the City that's at the centre of this setting. Location is deliberately left vague, but the picture painted is one of a bustling Arabian city, tradition and modernity side by side, sprawling at the edge of an unnamed desert and home to a couple of million people. Communications with the rest of the world are via an airport, railways and canals. Various areas of the city are described. Of note is the Budayeen, which is where you can indulge your vices. This area has two gates - one faces the religious quarter, the other the cemetary. Rooms for rent by the hour, places where you can gamble, bars and opium dens abound. More respectable eating places and other businesses are found here as well. There are even herb shops patronised by witches - magic is still believed in by many here. Whilst some of it only works if you do believe, other tradions use drugs and so can affect anyone. We also learn of City politics, public services and (of course) the underworld. Notable residents (many from the novels) are also presented. Then come some encounter tables for day and night in the City in general or in the Budayeen.

OK, more background with Chapter 3: Arabic Culture and Islam. Essential if you want the look and feel of your game to be suitably exotic (assuming your group isn't Arab or Muslim of course...). It describes the basic tenets of Islam, pretty accurately as far as I can tell, then looks at how they influence the rest of culture and life in general, including Sharia law, family ties and etiquette... and the role of women. Strage and oppressive to Western eyes, it's actually based on feelings of respect and an urge to protect. All is handled respectfully both to the faith and culture and indeed to those feminists who feel that the way women is treated is incorrect. Here we are being told what is... like any game, change what doesn't suit, but you risk losing the specific flavour if you deviate too much from this background. There's a glossary of (mostly) Arabic words you can toss in to conversation and a collection of Arabic proverbs.

Chapter 4 is Role-playing in the 23rd Century, and suggests that this setting is best suited to role-playing and problem solving. Of course combat and general action have their place but shouldn't be the main focus of the game. There are plenty violent people here who won't hesitate to use deadly force... but concentrate on the 'why', look at what they are trying to accomplish. A fight shouldn't just rack up the body count, how does it advance the plot? There's a lot about the sort of feel to evoke, and some sample plot ideas. There are also some new character classes - administrators, runners, investigators and spies - as well as a discussion of how the regular Roles fit in here.

Then Chapter 5: To the Cutting Edge and Back Again looks at technology in this setting. In particular there are skill-chips and others that can also embue personality, moddies and daddies in common slang parlance. There's a look at their sweeping effect on society. You may decide that you'd like them in a mainstream game, or keep them here, but however you want to use them you'll find everything you'll need here including sample chips and details of how to construct your own. There are also notes on sex change modifications, cyberware, bioware and biomechanics; as well as more general material on medical treatment.

Chapter 6: Hacking Through the Future caters for netrunners. In 2202 it's a very different scene. Instead of a global net there are gaping holes and fragmentation. People still search for money and information, but things are a bit different now. There's an overview of the current state of affairs and the ways in which to accomplish what you are trying to do. This chapter also contains a gear section, not just for netrunners but for everyone - weapons, vehicles, armour, entertainment and more.

Finally, there's a ready-to-play adventure, Silken Nights. Nobody's quite what they seem...

This makes for a fascinating and unique setting. You can use it as a stand-alone game world, or shave off the extra future history - maybe wind back some of the technological advances like the moddies and daddies (or have them just appearing, a good reason to visit in the first place!) and make this part of your regular Cyberpunk setting.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
When Gravity Fails
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