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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.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
When Gravity Fails
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Bartmoss' Brainware Blowout
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/26/2019 10:12:42

Rache Bartmoss is back and just as controversal as ever. This book is a collection of all 'netware' from previously-published Cyberpunk books, plus a selection from the Netrunner CCG from Wizards of the Coast (complete with the necessary game mechanics, of course). There's a couple of warnings: the Netrunner material may be overpowered and you should consider each item carefully before allowing it into your game and the Wiseman Full 'Borg from Chromebook 3 has been omitted due to the large amount of information that's needed to run it.

Naturally, though, it starts with a rant from Rache. He'd be at home on Twitter although he might find the character limit a bit of a bind, he does tend to go on a bit. Whatever he's on, well, it must be interesting. The rant is mostly an old-timer's distain for the current generation of netrunners, the diatribe of one who does it for fun at all those prosaic types who netrun to find information or even worse, for pay. Enjoy. Plenty of ideas in case your Netrunners even encounter Rache, though...

And then on to the catalogue, with the first part being Hardware. Each entry is referenced with the original source, provides cost and game information wrapped up in a fairly chatty account of what that item is that makes this book very 'player-friendly'. There are some illustrations, particularly of cyberdecks. The hardware section includes modifications to stanard cyberdecks and other computer equipment like desktop PCs and mobile devices. It's interesting to compare real-world 2019 kit with what was imagined for the game's 2020 - much is more advanced, but we still don't 'netrun' alas... I'm still typing on a keyboard to write this review! Yet there are some devices about which they brag of the capability to run all of THREE programs at once! However, if your character really wants to netrun from their PC, this explains how. There's also some new high-powered machines for office and studio use here.

The next section is software, which gets much the same treatment. As well as commercial software, the rules for writing your own are reprinted from the core rulebook. There's a new rules option concerning software upgrades and a very comprehensive list of available software, with entries classified by the nature of the software in question. There's a vast array of them.

Next is From Netrunner to Cyberpunk. This Netrunner is a collectable card game made by Wizards of the Coast under licence from R.Talsorian Games, in which players compete as Netrunner v. Corporation in a simulation of an online battle. Now it comes full circle, with software and hardware depicted on cards translated to work with the role-playing game. Illustrated with images from the cards it's an interesting addition, although there's a warning that things could disturb game balance and it's up to the Referee to decide what is and isn't allowed in their game. Of course, if you get this book before your Netrunner does, you can have fun throwing things at them that they have never seen before! There's also a method for converting a human being into an AI. Think long and hard before you let your 'punks loose with that! We end this section with vehicles and NPC sysops - also from Netrunner - these last should prove interesting if encountered in or out of the Net.

Finally, there are some notes should you feel moved to use Netrunner as a campaign aid rather than a stand-alone game. Perhaps you can use it to simulate netruns, or at least to build corporate datafortress to be attacked. Several campaign ideas are presented here. Maybe a plot device or quick adventure generator is what you need. There are lots of ideas here... maybe it's time to track down a set of Netrunner cards!

Rounding out with a few indices, that's it. A find collection of netrunner 'stuff' to ensure that this area of the game is not neglected. It was always one of my favourite aspects, when I could persuade the Referee to let me be a Netrunner... and this is just the resource to persuade them that, yes, it is a good idea!



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Bartmoss' Brainware Blowout
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Firestorm: Shockwave
by Jon S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/26/2019 02:21:20

This PDF is a scan of the original hardcopy. It's not great, but it's serviceable.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Firestorm: Shockwave
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Bartmoss' Brainware Blowout
by Jon S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/26/2019 02:18:28

Rache Bartmoss' Brainware Blowout is essentially a shopping catalog for Netrunners. This PDF is a scan of the original hardcopy. It's not great, but it does the job.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Bartmoss' Brainware Blowout
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Cyberpunk 2.0.2.0. The Second Edition, Version 2.01
by Jon S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/26/2019 01:50:32

Cyberpunk 2.0.2.0. was my first introduction to cyberpunk roleplaying games and still holds a soft spot in my heart today. I'm glad to see that R. Talsorian is rereleasing their books both physically and electronically. I'm also looking forward to Cyberpunk Red.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cyberpunk 2.0.2.0. The Second Edition, Version 2.01
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Night City
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/22/2019 09:24:51

From the beginnings of Cyberpunk there have been references to a Night City that's the assumed base of the campaign, somewhere on the west coast of America. Well, here it is in all its block-by-block glory, ready for your 'punks to make it their home, their turf, their stamping ground. The Introduction lays out what this book is about: taking a dark future city apart block by block and function by function, so that whatever it is you need is to hand. It's designed with use in mind and is player-friendly, indeed they suggest that you hand the book to a player when his character checks a dataterm for the information he requires!

The first section, Welcome to your Dataterm explains just what one is, how much it costs and how to use it (and by extension, how to use this book in like manner, a neat conceit). We then move on to Fax of File, that provides some background about the city. Founded in 1994 (oddly, the year I bought my copy!) it's a planned urban community that's controlled by the corporations - they have the city council stitched up although the Mayor is elected by popular vote. Located in Northern California, like any travel guide we can find out how to get there via air, land or sea; and get an overview of the weather and what makes for sensible clothing (ballistic armour is optional, they say... I wouldn't go there without it!). There's a rundown of traffic regulations... which includes a note that holders of a disabled badge are permitted to use weapons to remove an unauthorised vehicle from a designated disabled parking space. Public transport, vehicle rentals, hospitals, police and other services are also covered.

Next comes a series of maps to help you get oriented, including quite detailed ones of locations the newcomer is likely to visit (airport, docks and mass transit hub). Bus routes and times, all the stuff you need to know about getting around town, then a series of maps showing locations of different places you might need to go: educational establishments, leisure activities, hotels, and the all important clubs and other nightlife. It really gives the flavour of a guidebook (along the Rough Planet lines).

Then comes an article So What's America Like in 2020?, which gives a good in-character overview. You might want to have all your players read this to understand the environment in which their characters live. A second article, Vision & Fire, covers the history of Night City, then there's one on The People of Night City, another fascinating read. Don't get too cosy, we move on to Threat Level, Threat Codes and Security, as laid out by the Night City Police Department, and then The Gangs of Night City. The city is amply provided with gangs, it appears.

The rest of the book is a detailed zone by zone gazetteer of the city. Loads of information on each zone including a map, notable locations and people, encounters, and contacts. As well as the urban zones, the sprawling suburbs and outright combat zones are covered. There's advice for the Referee in creating and running a combat zone, should the party end up going there. They probably will!

Overall, a fantasic resource to provide a base of operations for your 'punks, a place where you can run adventures and generally be cyberpunk...



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Night City
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Blackhand's Street Weapons 2020
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/18/2019 11:15:16

Most role-players, or at least their characters, are very interested in their weapons. In Cyberpunk, however, it's not just how much damage they do but how stylish they look when doing it that's important. Plenty of weapons have been presented already, of course, and the main purpose of this book is to catalogue them systematically in a single reference work for ease of use.

The weapons are organised by type - starting with melee weapons and going through bows, 'exotic' weapons, and myriad classifications of firearm to explosives; with sections covering ammunition, recoil, and other stuff you need to think about. Within each category items are organised alphabetically - so if you know whether the handgun you are interested in is Light, Medium, Heavy or Very Heavy, for example, it ought to be easy to find! There's no index, so if you are looking for a particular weapon and are unsure of its category, you may have to hunt around a bit.

Listings are pretty basic - the game stats in a standardised sequence, a brief description and a note of where the weapon first appears. There are a few illustrations, separate from the actual listings. Within a given category, the differences seem to be mainly manufacturer based. Good for the posers who want to rattle off the full name of whatever they are toting but there's not much to help you discern the strengths and weaknesses of any given weapon.

This is very much a book for players rather than an in-character resource. It compiles all the weapons that have been talked about in other books in this game line (as well as Interface Magazine, and there is but one new weapon - the Nova Model 757 Cityhunter, a heavy handgun. It has a wierd design, and triangular rounds (trounds) - of which it carries 18, six in the barrel which rotates revolver style, and the rest in the body of the weapon which you reload in once the first six have been fired. It packs quite a punch, but it's biggest strength is when the opposition stop and stare at it rather than fight you! It does appear in the illustrations section, fortunately...

Ultimately, this is a handy reference, but the original descriptions of the weapons when published elsewhere are more likely to awaken your inner gun-bunny. Information on the range of ammunition available is useful (visions of a street vending machine - heavily armoured of course - where you can pick up a reload almost mid-fire fight spring to mind). It's useful to have all the stats in one place, though.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Blackhand's Street Weapons 2020
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Edgerunners Inc.
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/13/2019 06:52:14

In the ultimate 'gig economy' offer, this book introduces an alternative to hanging out in bars badgering ever Fixer you know for work. Sign up with Edgerunners, Inc. instead. There's quite a lot in here. You can read about (and so use in your game) Edgerunners as a corporation offering services for hire, there is an array of NPCs classified by role that your group can hire on a mission-by-mission basis to fill in any gaps, and - of course - some available jobs that the party can hire on to do. What's not to like?

We begin with information about Edgerunners themselves, who are it appears a division of a corportation called StreeTemps. Based in Night City, their business is as an employment agency for temporary workers, and a lot of it is stuff like fruit picking, factory/warehouse work and the like, also secretarial, janitorial and security work. They also handle more 'professional' jobs... the sort of jobs a streetpunk might be interested in and capable of doing. For obvious reasons, this part of the business is Net-based and cannot be easily traced back to the parent company. We learn of the history of the corporation, and meet some of the leading members, as well as something of how they operate and their headquarters building.

Next is the section of NPCs. These have a variety of uses from additional party members on a job-by-job basis if your party is light in a particular area of skills or expertise, they might be other 'punks that the party encounters... you might even use one as a well-developed character for a player in need of one in a hurry. For each there are background notes, operating style (covers what that individual is like as well as how they work) and a full stat block. In this section there are Solos, Medias, MedTechs, Techies, Fixers, Netrunners and a few fellows who defy classification.

This is followed by Help Wanted, which provides masses of information on both those who are hiring and the jobs they need doing. While you'll need to fill in some details, you can pretty much run any of these adventures with minimal preparation. They are grouped by the employing corporation, and begin with brief notes on who they are and what their objectives might be, then each job is outlined with the original want-ad, and notes on the contact, mission brief, available support, opposition, complications you can throw in and how much the job pays. There's loads of background and intrigue to get your teeth into, and ample opportunites for fire fights. The nature of the jobs is pretty much what a cyberpunk would be expecting his Fixer to come up with: extrations, data theft, surveillance and the like. You can use the background information to create further adventures.

Overall, this is a useful resource. It seems reasonable to assume that corporations might find the idea of a 'middle-man' corporation to outsource their more shady requirements through appealing, whilst actual cyberpunks might be initially wary and need to be reassured that they will not be cheated... there again, they run the same risk meeting a Fixer in a low dive bar anyway. The adventure seeds are excellent, and the resource bank of NPCs is sure to come in useful too. Worth getting, even if you don't want to make Edgerunners Inc. themselves part of your game world as you could run the missions anyway, or pull in whichever NPC might be of use in another way.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Edgerunners Inc.
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Eurosource Plus
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/13/2019 06:51:29

The Introduction sets out this work's stall. After the Pacific Rim sourcebook provided loads of background material for games set in, or characters coming from, that area it was thought that it would be a good idea to do the same for Europe. Even if you did fancy using the Eurotour campaign book, more background won't go amiss, and not all parties will be happy hiring on to a rock band but might still have a need or a desire to visit Europe. Sounds like a good idea...

We start with an overview and discussion about how Europe is governed and run, along with a map to help any geographically-challenged American 'punks find their way around. From there, Europe is broken down into regions - the Major Powers, the South, the New Central Europe and the Margins, with plenty of information about each country. Class and Eurostyle then looks at what it's like to live there, and finally there's everything you need presented in a role-by-role basis to find out how you fit in.

The first section is Fortress Europe, and this opens logically with how a visitor gains entry to Europe. If you want to do it legally it's simple enough to present ID and other information to an EU Embassy a couple of weeks before you want to travel - just very expensive! It gets harder if you don't have a Corporate passport to present, though. If you travel by recognised routes, your troubles are not yet over. Border security is taken very seriously. They check for illegal cyberware, for starters... thoroughly. Immigration has three channels: EU citizen, Corporate passport-holders, and everyone else. Checks include retina scans and a requirement to sign a document that you are NOT seeking asylum! This takes around three hours at airports, land crossings take far longer. Going across other than at a regular crossing point is a major undertaking. Each nation handles border security its own way, but they do cooperate and have EC resources to call upon. Sea routes are also well-patrolled by people accustomed to taking on heavily-armed smugglers.

Next all is explained in Who Runs Europe? Only taxpayers may vote, so if you're unemployed forget it. EC constituencies are based on the tax take, thus giving a small rich area a say equal to that of a large poorer one. Money is at the heart of the power structure. Local politics (at a national level) is about providing services to citizens and attempting to prove that their tax money is being well-spent. There's a lot of detail on the European Council, probably more than most citizens know unless they are really into current affairs. Useful if you fancy a spot of high-level intrigue. It is, of course, corrupt. Plenty money can be made. Groups who like political intrigue and scheming could have an interesting and unusual game, or you may prefer more typically cyberpunk activities driven by politicial rather than corporate in-fighting... or of course when one or more corporation wishes to influence politics. There's an integrated European Defence Force (nations still retain their own military, however), and they - like in the present day - have a migrant problem, with hordes of economic migrants trying to enter Europe from elsewhere without troubling with the nicities of going through proper channels and getting the necessary permits to live and work in Europe. This section gives an excellent picture of how Europe is governed... but has a complete lack of understanding of how to use an apostrophe!

Then we move on to the nation-by-nation gazetteer, beginning with The Major Powers (France, Benelux,and Germany). There's a timeline from 1990 to 2020, covering all of Europe in broad strokes but particularly concentrating on this region. For each, we get an overview, then hear about the government, background and culture, and a regional guide. In following sections The South (Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, and Turkey), The New Central Europe (Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Bosnia-Herzegvina, Serbia, Croatia, and Slovenia) and The Margins (the UK, Ireland, the Scandinavian bloc of Denmark, Finland, Norwary, Sweden, Iceland and Greenland; also Russia and satellite countries, and North-West Africa). Some nations get more attention than others, so you may have to dig around in real-world resources as well to be able to convey a good local feel should the party go there.

Next, Class and Eurostyle provides information on various groups such as Old Nobility, Goldenkids, Eurocrats and even Sports Fans... and plenty wierder groups like Goths and Vlads - who believe vampirism is the future and bodysculpt fangs, and come out only at night with long swirling cloaks - and New Templars, who live like mediaeval warrior monks. In general, however, European style is one of sublety rather than brute force. Overt cyberware is right out... but discreetly hidden cyberware is quite popular, also nanotech and bioengineering. We also hear about everyday life, and that despite the EC, most people regard themselves as citizens of a given nation rather than of Europe. Despite this, the EC's tentacles run deep. Don't set foot out without your ID. Entertainment, sports and hobbies are also covered along with education, religion and even pets. Social care is good - on paper. It's a bit soul-destroying in real life, but at least nobody should starve or have no roof over their heads, or lack access to basic medical care. Taxation is complex, and evading it is a fine art. Living costs are also covered here, along with transportation and the law. Non-citizens are normally thrown out of Europe for even minor offences.

Finally The Roles in Europe looks at how the various Roles present themselves, and what they do, and how. This is laid out by Role, so it's easy to find out about the Role you want to play. There's a very small amount of information on European Lifepaths... invent your own or seek them elsewhere.

Overall, a good look at Europe should you have an adventure that will take you there. Less good if you want to play a character coming from there, the lack of Lifepath information is noticeable although the notes on style are excellent to help you get the look and feel you need.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Eurosource Plus
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NeoTribes
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/24/2019 09:01:59

This is a resource for the Nomad role, in particular as found in North America. As such it is useful for anyone playing a Nomad, or for Referees who want to have plenty of Nomad action in their game. In it, there is information about Nomad life, the Nomad groups (Tribes) to be found in America, notes on creating and playing a Nomad character (and their equipment), and materials for Referees including sample Nomad Packs and a complete adventure.

First up, Nomads in America. Forget visions of Mad Max convoys and rootless murdering thugs. There are only a few of those, and real Nomads look down on them. Nomad society is structured and peaceful, and most are pretty much like everyone else except for their mobility. There's a timeline showing how present-day Nomad culture developed from 1992 on as a result of the collapse of croplands and indeed ordered society. Many helped the rebuilding process, working construction jobs then moving on to the next city to rebuild that one as well. Others live off of scavenging from the ruins, transport cargoes around the country, some are organised mercenary bands, some are travelling entertainers. Nomads have a basic code that covers caring for family and working hard to earn money.

There's a telling and prophetic statement that suggests that a lot of the problems were caused by a 'me first' attitude that covered itself by claiming that everyone else was racist, sexist or elitist just because they had something that the folks making the claim wanted. Nomads have rejected this and insisted on developing unity and mutual support instead. There are several different cultures and it is worth understanding them if you intend to deal with them. Agripacks are itinerent agricultural workers, poor and ill-educated, often abused, but determined to work for whatever they can get. Then there are the Native Americans, many of whom have gone back to ancestral nomadic ways rather than live on reservations. There are also Romany (these days, 'gypsy' is seen as a slur so I won't use that although it's what they are called here) who are traders and fixers... and swindlers and theives. The carnies or circus people, often confused with the Romanies, are a quite distinct lot, travelling around bringing entertainment to the masses (and often cheating them...). Then, of course, there are the bikers. Unpredicable and dangerous, other nomads reckon they have given the nomad lifestyle a bad name. There are others, but these are the major cultures. The groups they are found in are classified by size, from Families of 10-100 people up to Nations of up to a million - not generally all found in the same place, of course! The Nation is the newest group, and is formed of several Tribes with allied interests.

The next chapter deals with the seven main Nations, describing each one in detail. It's reckoned there are about seven million nomads in North America and at least half have affilitated to one of the Nations. The largest is the Snake Nation, which is a fairly loose federation of people who want to have a voice in 'normal' politics, to represent all Nomads... having formed in response to the formation of the other Nations! Then there are the Jodes, formed for mutual preservation of their families and a chance to earn their own way. The Blood Nation has its origins in Miami, and although they grew out of drug gang culture, hence the name, they are now united by faith (Santeria and Voodoo) and earn their livelihood as travelling entertainers operating out of what remained of the Disney resorts in the area until they were driven out and became completely nomadic. The youngest Nation is the Metas, who are actually a corporation (Metacorp) in their own right. Their origins involve disenfranchised military men who felt abandoned and built their own organisation which is a maritime construction and security firm. Then there are the Aldecaldos, refugees from the remnants of Los Angeles determined to make the world a better, safer place step by step. The Thelas Nation are seaborne nomads, often derided as pirates, found in the Caribbean. The Folk Nation is based around black culture, with origins in Chicago gangs. There is also a kind of unofficial eigth nation called the Raffen Shiv, most hated of all - even by other nomads. They are bandits, theives and worse, stealing from anyone they can.

Now we know who they are, how about making a Nomad character? The next chapter brings everything you need including new Roles, a Nomad Lifepath, and more ideas than you can shake a stick at. It shows how the conventional Roles can also blend into a Nomad pack. There is a wide selection of nomad equipment too, the stuff that turns a life on the road from a survival scrabble to something a bit more pleasant, even though it is still a hard life. This includes vehicles, even notes on customising bikes, and weapons.

Next up, Running Nomads is aimed at Referees, and covers ideas on running Nomad campaigns, involving more standard 'punks into Nomad groups, and a whole bunch of resources from Nomad economies to weaving the Nations into your plots. A few sample packs are followed by a complete ready-to-run adventure, Chicago: The Adventure. Its intention is to introduce the nomad lifestyle and it can follow on after another campaign or serve as a campaign starter in and of itself.

This sourcebook presents a diverse range of ideas to expand the whole concept of Nomads whether you want to play one or, as a Referee, run a Nomad campaign or just have the party interact with Nomads whilst going about other business. Have fun on the open road!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
NeoTribes
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Rache Bartmoss' Guide to the Net
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/21/2019 09:48:14

Rache Bartmoss is the greatest netrunner ever... or so he claims. (What is the percentage in billing yourself as the second best in your field, anyway?) Now, however, he's apparently dead. Or is he? At least he has found time to produce a sourcebook giving the low-down on the Net... which is apparently downloadable as a massive file from his website and edited by a fellow called Spider Murphy. The rest of us can get it from game stores or DriveThruRPG.

In an interesting attempt at representing a web document on paper, hyperlinks are highlighted with the text you'd find if you clicked on them in sidebars. Most are used to explain or expand upon things mentioned in the main text. At the moment, Bart's "meat body" is indeed deceased and frozen by the life support systems he'd installed, but his mind is still roaming the Net. That's how come this sourcebook has come to be written. Is that wierd enough for you? Don't worry, it gets wilder, as Bart spouts his philosophy about the Net. Don't rely on him for historical information, a lot of that is plain wrong, at least that before 1993, when the book was published. Later material may or may not reflect the alternate reality of the game. There are thoughts on the different kinds of Netrunners and why they are there in the Net. It's all rather reminiscent of the movie Hackers, which if you haven't watched it, go find a copy before even contemplating playing a Netrunner again. There's loads of stuff explaining how the Net works. You don't need this to play the game, but it's a good line of technobabble for a player who wants a Netrunner character to talk the talk... and it does explain how it works for those who are curious about what is going on. Just because the real-world internet works differently is neither here nor there. This section ends with a discussion of the nature of AIs... which sounds quite familiar to someone who hangs around a university computer science department! Next we hear about Netwatch, the online 'police' who claim a mission of keeping the Net safe. For who? From whom? Opinions vary depending on who you ask.

The rest of the book consists of detailed maps of regions of the Net and notes about places of interest and importance to be found there. Of course it's loaded with commentary and remarks from Bartmoss, snippets of information, and other stuff that make it an amusing read as well as an informative one. You'll get the most out of these if you read the associated sourcebook for that part of the world. This account gets right down to city-level grids, and will come in handy for both Referees and players if the Net action heads off that way. There are also individual data fortresses that Netrunners might have reason to visit. First up is Pacifica, then something called Olympia, a satellite based area covering the west of America. Then Rustbelt - pretty much what you'd expect, although it covers the North East as well and up to Canada. Tokyo/Chiba/Atlantis gives you access to Japan and South America; then of course there is Eurotheatre, covering Europe, along with a bit of North Africa, Turkey, Israel and the western end of Russia. SocSpace and Afrikani deal with the rest of Russia and Africa respectively, then it's time to get exotic with Orbitsville and Wilderspace.

Finally there's a Rules Appendix. New rules, new software and tech, even Rache Bartmoss' stats. Plenty to help you make your netrunning really come to life. A lot of people get twitchy when you try netrunning in game, some Referees even prohibit Netrunner characters. Don't. It can be great fun when both Referee and the Netrunner's player are prepared to work at it a bit. Two of my favourite Cyberpunk characters were Netrunners... and they found plenty to do in realspace as well as when jacked in. This book should prove an invaluable resource for the jacked in bit, with plenty of ideas, and even plots to be developed as you read through its pages.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Rache Bartmoss' Guide to the Net
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