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Firestorm: Shockwave
Publisher: R. Talsorian Games Inc.
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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John Carter of Mars Quickstart
Publisher: Modiphius
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/18/2019 12:36:24

This work (which comes as a landscape format PDF, which doesn't work well on screen - except perhaps on a tablet - and even worse if printed out) begins by explaining the 2d20 'Momentum' system that is used for this game. Ideally you need to purchase a special d6 marked with special symbols to use as a Combat Die, but as you probably won't have one, there's a quick chart to enable the use of an ordinary d6 instead. It then explains that each character is described by six attributes: Cunning, Daring, Empathy, Might, Passion and Reason. There are brief descriptions of each, along with notes on how they are used in Attribute Tests, rolled whenever a character undertakes an action with an uncertain outcome. To make an Attribute Test, pick two attributes that make sense for the situation which give you a target number and roll 2d20. Each die that rolls equal to or under the target number scores one success, and each die that scores equal to or less than the character's weaker Attribute scores two successes. The Narrator (GM) assigns a Difficulty to the task, which determines how many successes in the Attribute Test are required for the character to accomplish whatever they wanted to do. Brief examples and advice on setting Difficulty are provided, and Complications and Momentum - the game mechanic from which the system gets its name, are explained.

You gain Momentum every time you score more successes than you actually require. These extra successes can be used to make your action even more mind-blowingly epic, or saved up to bolster a later roll by adding extra d20s. If two characters are operating in opposition to each other, it's called an Opposed Test, and they both have to not only succeed in the Attribute Test, but get more successes than the other character to win out. If you are looking to increase your chances of success, as well as adding bonus dice through Momentum, you can call on your Luck - each point of luck gives you a success. Teamwork and assistance from other players can also help. The whole idea of Momentum is that one success often leads to another, and fits well with the heroic protagonist like John Carter of Mars... but there is another side to the coin, Threat. This works for the Narrator in a similar manner, with all their NPCs sharing a pool of Threat that begins equal to the amount of Luck the PCs have, and fluctuates during play in the same way as each individual PC's Momentum does. Characters can do other things with Luck as well as boost their die rolls, and gain them by doing noteworthy things during a game. The discussion then moves on to Action Scenes and how they are played out. It's a turn-based system, with each character (and NPC) acting in turn until all have had a go. PCs normally go first unless the Narrator uses a Threat point to have an NPC go first - but unusually, there's no 'initiative', the players get to choose who goes first, and each player decides who acts after them! There are many things that can be done in a turn, which are explained here; along with the results of combat such as taking damage... how to recover from damage is also explained. OK, now you know enough to have a go at the playtest adventure.

Pregenerated characters are provided for a short but dramatic adventure in which the party - including John Carter and Dejah Thoris themselves - on a diplomatic errand to the kingdom of Vonika which wishes to enter into an alliance with Helium. There's an opportunity for role-play as the party settles down and gets to know each others - there are suggestions for various pastimes, and notes on how to adjudicate them - and then the peace of the trip is rudely disturbed by another flier attempting to ram the party's craft! It doesn't matter who wins the ensuing fight, both outcomes are catered for, and in any case, the remaining fliers will need repairs before continuing on their way, and this will not be as straightforward as you might think.

As an adventure it is very much an exerpt, but it brings over the flavour of the game well, and introduces the Momentum system if you've not played it before. It's a great way to discover if this game is for you and your group... and if it is, the core rulebook and other materials await!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
John Carter of Mars Quickstart
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Chromebook 3/4
Publisher: R. Talsorian Games Inc.
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
Publisher: R. Talsorian Games Inc.
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
Publisher: R. Talsorian Games Inc.
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
Publisher: R. Talsorian Games Inc.
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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Night City
Publisher: R. Talsorian Games Inc.
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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Star Trek Adventures: Science Division Supplement
Publisher: Modiphius
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/21/2019 09:48:56

The Science Division are often the unsung heroes of Star Trek - a bit odd when you consider the whole mission is about exploration and discovery, things that scientists are good at. Apart from Spock, who was Science Officer as well as the second-in-command of Kirk's Enterprise, the on-board scientists are just produced when there's a problem that science can solve, then sent back whence they came until the next time. Apart from the medics, that is, who are part of Science Division but with a much higher profile. Here's a chance to redress the balance!

The Introduction - To Seek and to Know - talks of science and medicine being at the centre of the urge to explore space. Finding out what's going on is a key driver for exploration and explorers have to be kept healthy whilst doing so. When not treating patients, medics are also interested in exploration - perhaps they'll find a medicinal plant or medical knowledge hitherto undreampt-of on the next planet. However, those scientific and medical professionals who join Star Fleet are quite special. Adventurous, certainly, but this is a part of the organisation that recruits seasoned professionals, older people, as well as train their own at the Academy. With a note from a grateful student whose training saved the day during an exercise, we move on to an outline of the contents of the book. There's also an example of individuals from various branches within the Science Division working together to resolve a potentially lethal problem, and a note indicating that technologies differ depending on which Era you game is set in, and how these are to be highlighted through the rest of the text.

Chapter 1: Science Division goes into detail about training, organisation, responsibilities and so on, with three main strands of scientists, medics, and counsellors. This is presented in the style of a briefing document for new Science Division officers and makes for a fascinating read. It outlines the protocols for exploration missions and science missions, and discusses the Prime Directive at length with some ideas on how to deal with breaches thereof. It also touches on time travel. There is a Department of Temporal Investigation in the assumed present day (TNE era), and some inklings of a Temporal Integrity Commission which appears to have been established in the future (29th century) - their agents won't reveal much, for obvious reasons.

Next Chapter 3: Science Division Characters looks at expanding the core rulebook's character generation process to make more detailed and diverse Science Division characters via extra Lifepath options and new Focuses and Talents. This allows for the sort of specialisation that you'd likely see - geologists and botanists, trauma surgeons and infectious disease specialists, and so on.

Then, Chapter 4: Research and Development examines the vast range of specialised equipment available particularly in the field of medicine, from hand-held devices to fully-equipped hospital ships. There are also details of lifeforms and other phenomena that have been encountered with ideas for further research and a discussion of the Q Continuum and ideas of dealing with encouters there. I'd say 'stay away' but sometimes it comes to visit anyway...

Chapter 5: Using the Science Division is crammed with ideas, providing rules for creating everything from medical emergencies to xeno-biological mysteries (why does every habitable planet grow something that looks exactly like Earth grass, I wonder) and running missions with a science/exploration focus. There's also suggestions for how to run adventures that involve medical interventions to save a ship's company, a planet or even the entirety of known space. This chapter also contains rules to aid the development of new alien lifeforms, sentient and otherwise, even those that live in places an unprotected human could not go. Finally Chapter 6: Sciences Personnel provides an array of fully-developed characters to use as NPCs - perhaps when an exotic specialism is required - or as an example for generating your own.

This is an excellent resource that should inspire you and your group to 'boldly go' like you never have before, with loads of ideas to help your exploration missions make many discoveries - and generate a mound of academic papers!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Star Trek Adventures: Science Division Supplement
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Blackhand's Street Weapons 2020
Publisher: R. Talsorian Games Inc.
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.
Publisher: R. Talsorian Games 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
Publisher: R. Talsorian Games Inc.
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
Publisher: R. Talsorian Games Inc.
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
Publisher: R. Talsorian Games Inc.
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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0one's Blueprints: Vale of the Mages
Publisher: 0one Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/16/2019 12:59:19

Would you like a mage for a neighbour? The wizards who live here certainly do, there are no less than four traditional wizard's towers here, although one has fallen into ruin. The introductory notes provide a few ideas for using them 'as is' - or of course you can use them individually whenever you have need of a residence for a mage. It also provides a key to common items on the maps, and directions on how to operate the customisation tools to show or hide numbers, grid, furniture and heavy fill on the black and blue versions of each plan.

First up, an overview of the valley, which has a Y-shaped river - the eddies suggest that the two branches entering from the bottom of the page join to flow off to the top-left, but that's up to you to decide. There are paths, woods, and bridges to enable the mages to visit each other without getting their feet wet or having to expend flying magic.

Next is a round tower described as the Old Wizard Tower. This has three levels plus a cellar and a circular staircase. The ground floor has a kitchen and a living room, upstairs there's a comfortable bedroom for the mage and space for an apprentice on the top floor. There's a front view and a cross section to help you sort everything out. The notes describe the living area as the laboratory: well, it has bookcases and a large table with chairs... but also a couple of comfortable armchairs round a fire place.

The second tower is called the Small Tower. It's basically squat and square with some unusual crenellations around its flat roof. Squat it may appear, but it still packs a ground floor and two upper levels as well as a cellar and that flat roof. Like the previous tower, the cellar is used for storage. The ground floor has a kitchen, dining room and bedroom; and there's a laboratory, a library, and a palour upstairs. The mage's comforts have been attended to, there is both a privy and a bathroom noted.

Next the Large Wizard Tower is quite an impressive edifice. It has four levels plus a flat roof, and stands in its own grounds with a separate stable block and gazebo... and a full-blown dungeon underneath, complete with cells and a couple of laboratories. The ground floor contains the kitchens, library, a more public laboratory, dining room and storage. Upstairs, there is a master bedroom for the wizard and accommodation for several apprentices, who have yet another laboratory and a storeroom for components. The wizard has his own private laboratory at the top of the tower just under the roof as well.

Finally, the Ruined Tower. In a considerable state of disrepair, you can still make out a ground floor, cellar and two upper levels. It was built to a round plan, tapering towards the top, and the remains of a spiral staircase can be seen.

These are three nice towers that any mage might want to settle in, with ample room for study and experimentation. I'm not sure I want to know what goes on in the dungeon, though!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
0one's Blueprints: Vale of the Mages
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Pacific Rim Sourcebook
Publisher: R. Talsorian Games Inc.
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/13/2019 13:46:29

A brief introduction 'for gamers' sets out the way this book has been approached, in the main it's written as a travel journal, the sort of thing you might consult if intending to go there, with game stuff - plot ideas, mechanics, etc - confined to sidebars and separate sections. The idea is that the material here should empower you to run adventures in the Pacific Rim - the far east of China, Japan, etc., Indochina, Indonesia, the Philippines, or right down to Australia and New Zealand - or have characters who come from there, wherever it is that they are now adventuring.

Then we get the travel magazine introduction, all delivered in character and explaining some of the basics like how names work in different nations and what currencies are used and how much your Eurobucks are worth. There are also notes on how similar cultures are to one another and about driving - and about the ease (or otherwise) of using cyberweapons when driving on what, to you, is the 'wrong' side of the road!

We then dive straight into the Japan section, starting with a map and some background and culture. Despite being renowed for corporations, it is still an Empire. It's also one of the biggest consumers of cyberwear. Due to a period of assassinations in the early years of the 21st century, the throne is now occupied by a 13-year-old girl, with a regent in place and - due to family connections - Arasaka troops supplementing the Imperial Guard. There's a timeline from 1992 to the present (2020), and notes on religion (Shinto, respect for the dead, especially dead heroes) and how the country got its name. Urban attitudes, recent political history and current affairs, and how corporations and government work together... and we meet some of the leading corporations. There is material on the Self Defence Force (SDF) - technically Japan doesn't have armed forces - including all the details necessary to make a character who has served, or is serving, in the SDF. Then we hear about Japanese police and the draconian weapons laws, along with notes for creating cop NPCs, before moving on to Japanese gang culture. Then there's a more in-depth look at Tokyo. Apparently a major bridge has gone rogue. It's controlled by an AI, you see, and that has developed a wayward streak that hasn't been brought back under control - it uses drones and point-defence systems to keep those it doesn't like away! There are brief notes on Osaka and Kyoto as well; and the section ends with how different roles fare in Japan, and a whole bunch of atmospheric LifePath material for Japanese-born characters.

The next chapter deals with United Korea. Well, the rest of the world may be going to hell in a handcart, but unlike the real world, North and South Korea have reunited. Tensions remain in a land where cybertech is frowned upon, a very male-dominated society where women are treated as chattels and breeding stock - of course, many of them disagree with this role and are doing something about it. A lot of this is explained in a fascinating 'interview' with Mrs Sun UnSuk, the head of Sungan Zaibatsu, which explains a lot of Korean culture and mindset. There's also a timeline, and even a character sheet for Sun UnSuk in case she pops up in one of your adventures. There's a detailed look at Seoul, the capital and home to ten million people, and notes on leading Zaibatsus, the Korean answer to corporations. An outline of the political situation presents a place dominated by corruption and nepotism despite ostensibly being a presidential parliamentary democracy. Focus then moves to the Korean military and law enforcement. As all Koreans do military service when young, it's likely that any Korean character will have served and a few notes cover this. The police are actually military in nature, and virtually incorruptable. Details of making a Military Police character are also included.

Next up is China, with a timeline and notes on the confusing class system within a classless society. Anyone who is not Chinese will stand out like a sore thumb, and anyone who is of Chinese heritage will be expected to speak the language. The importance of maintaining 'face', avoiding the number four and mutual gift-giving (which you don't accept at first offering so as not to appear greedy) are also covered. Get some business cards with your name and a flowery description of your profession in both English and Chinese. Most people are very superstitious. Main forms of transport are trains, bicyles and feet. It's still Communist, and very beaurocratic, so dealing with the government is frustratingly slow and difficult. It's a police state, and you need official permission to do just about anything. Few people have access to weapons or cyberwear. They still use the Yuan as currency, with paper notes rather than credchips... and the black market is huge. Everybody uses it at least occasionally. There's some history - quite a brief overview given how long China's history is! - and notes on the various gangs to watch out for and avoid. The main organised crime gangs as the Triads. Geography is covered sketchily in a series of thumbnail sketches, given that China is such a big country. Beijung, Shanghai and Hong King are described in a little more detail. Civil war has done a lot of damage wherever you go, although everything is peaceful now. Interestingly, after the British left Hong Kong the Ghurkas developed into an independent mercenary group. There's a fair bit about the Chinese military and Public Security (that's the police). And Taiwan? Still independent, capitalist to the hilt, beaurocratic, armed to the teeth. No change there. Finally there's a round-up of how different roles operate in China along with revised Lifepaths if you fancy playing one.

The next port of call (several, really) is Southeast Asia. This covers Indochina, the Philippines, Malaysia and all the islands between the Asian mainland and Australia. The timeline mostly talks about how world events affected the nations here, although the Philippines appear to have gone through presidents like nobody's business - one was killed and his successor was also sent to meet his Maker on the way to his inauguration! Ancient nations, yet ones long accustomed to dealing with Europeans since colonial days, they have their own trading bloc which remains just that, unlike the European Community, whom they distrust. They also keep wary eyes on China and Japan. It's hot and humid most of the time, with a rainy season and a tendency to typhoons. Cultures differ by island, but tend to be Chinese or Malay based, then there's an added layer of faith - Buddhist or Islamic. Since the Mid-East Meltdown, there's been an influx of Muslims from the Middle East. Most nations, however, don't like the generally scruffy cyberpunk style so visitors are warned to be careful about their appearance. Singapore even has dress codes enshrined in legislation! Many nations have internal unrest, and all who rely on fishing or tourist beaches have been blighted by a massive oil spill. There's a survey of the different nations to highlight various salient points, an overview and notes on economy and government. Everythings scattered with commentary from various individuals, information on notable individuals, and often a few words of local slang. Again, the section ends with notes on how the various roles play out in the area, and Lifepath notes.

Then we come to Australasia, consisting of Australia and New Zealand. Australia became a federal republic in 2001 after the fall of the UK monarchy. Western Australia promptly left the Federation, but the rest of Australia refused to recognise this. They are sports fanatics, preferring Australian Rules Football (usually called footy) in which cyberwear is forbidden. There is a cyberware variant league however. Beer is also vital to Australian culture, and they are not interested in substitutes or even foreign 'real' beers. Australia used to be a textbook for racial/cultural integration, at least of immigrants. The aboriginals would disagree. Poverty since 1994 has divided the country often on racial lines. There's a survey across the states, complete with several overt adventure hooks, and after some Aussie slang, New Zealand gets the same treatment. Then there's the usual role-specific information and Lifepath modifications.

Finally, there's a chapter on Martial Arts. Most of the Asian nations have their own distinctive styles, and there are descriptions along with modifications to the rules in the shape of Friday Night Fist Fight! Different styles are described, along with distinctive martial arts weapons. There's a lot here, but if you want a martial arts brawl in your game, now you can have a spectacular one! There are also notes on new skills and new roles, some of which have been mentioned earlier but which are now expanded into useable rules. Want to be a spy or a pirate? Now you can...

There's a lot packed in here but if you want to take your adventures to this region or have a character come from there, it will prove invaluable.



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Pacific Rim Sourcebook
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