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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.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Pacific Rim Sourcebook
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Listen Up You Primitive Screwheads!!!!!
Publisher: R. Talsorian Games Inc.
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/09/2019 13:10:20

Subtitled "The Unexpurgated Cyberpunk Referee's Guide", this is a rather chatty guide through the art and science of running your Cyberpunk game. However many rules there are in the core rulebook and supplements, as soon as the game actually starts to interact with players, questions arise. Can you do this thing? And if so, how does it work? Yet role-playing games by their very nature are not rules-bound. If there isn't a rule for a thing, make it up. If you don't care for the rule that is there for that thing, discard it and substitute your own. It's not a sporting contest where the rules are set in stone and known by all participants. This is role-playing, and the whole point is to have fun.

There's a whole bunch of material here, including running long-term campaigns, the whole style and atmosphere you're trying to create, maintaining control of a game with 'power players' in it, the sociology of cyberpunk, fleshing out the lifepath, working in fringe characters, whether running games set on the street or in a skyscraper (i.e. at a corporate level) are best suited to you, and winding up with Mike Pondsmith's collection of dirty tricks and some actual new rules. Quite a lot to feed your inner Referee on!

We start off with a piece about getting the party together in the first place. What is going to make them bond into a team rather than a bunch of chance associates? Some novel ideas including having them all by chance be somewhere that comes under attack and only by working together will they survive long enough to take vengeance on the attackers. Or you can manipulate the Lifepath so that they have a common background event or other link. Or they all have rooms in the same building. The possibilies are endless. Sneaky referees will make Lifepath event rolls for their players, telling them the outcome with or without reference to the actual tables. You also may have a campaign goal in end, so you'll need to work out how this motley band are going to get there. This is followed by a piece on creating successful plots, especially where there is no readily-identifiable 'bad guy'. Lots of good advice here. Next is a piece on how a Cyberpunk is not, and should not, be run on the same lines as, say, a game of Dungeons & Dragons. There's also a lot of good advice about creating a plot arc appropriate for Cyberpunk which makes excellent reading. Interestingly, as is the case throughout the book, each section is written by a different author, so there is a refreshing diversity of opinions. Read through, decide what you want to use, discard anything you don't, very much in the spirit of the entire supplement.

Next is a selection of articles around the Cyberpunk Milieu: Style and Atmosphere. Core, says the first one, is the tech. Most people - players, referees and indeed characters - won't really understand it, they just know what it can do for them. Here there's an attempt to present some of the overarching tech themes and show how they can work in your game... and what the drawbacks are. Like if you have skinweave, don't lose or gain weight dramatically, 'cos your skinweave will not change size along with you! The next article gets to the essence of the genre: style over substance. It's a world-feel, and within this world we run our adventures. But if they are not firmly rooted in this world, they are not Cyberpunk they are merely action-adventure with a bit of future-tech spin. There's a second article here on the same lnes, with ideas for mining different areas of literature to create your edgy, gadget-obsessed world. Remember, even in 2020, cyberpunk is a subculture. Not everyone lives that way even though the characters do. High tech, attitude, looking cool whatever you're doing, this is what makes the setting work.

This is followed by a chapter on Gun Control and the Power Player Problem. This reminds me of teacher training, 'cos it talks about establishing control over the game without abusing your power. Be subtle about the tools you use. The law and the cost of whatever the party wants are good ones. Someone who insists on lots of armour and open-carry of field-grade weapons is likely to find a MAX-TAC squad waiting for them. If you need something quick, or illegal, it's going to cost more (and then some, if it's both!). Yet if you don't look good, reactions are going to be negative, so you have to invest in what's stylish right now. And that's expensive. Encouirage role-play and modify tasks accordingly. What about problem players (as opposed to their characters)? You can make life difficult for their characters, but be inventive about it. If they are power-playing, think of it as using good role-playing to correct their poor role-playing, that's all. There's a bit of a discussion about various levels of tech from completely ubiquitous to world-changing and how to handle them well... and control it when necessary. Then there's a piece about power-players and how to deal with them, starting with the concept that a power-player is more of a war-gamer seeking a win than a role-player looking for a shared alternate reality, and that they see the referee as an opponent rather than a guide to that reality. This doesn't mean someone who can think tactically in a fight scene, many players have military experience or wargame and use that knowledge when it is appropriate to do so. Several examples of power play are given with examples of how to steer them into being useful, stop them messing up the game or completely neutralising what they are trying to do. Useful examples of player-handling that should improve your game mastery irrespective of what system you are running. There are also ways of using tech against characters who use that to power-play. Another voice provides a second spin on these concepts, mostly looking at how to stop game-breaking schemes by your players (without just saying NO, it's more entertaining than that!)... some real nasty tricks here. And who says you'll keep them for power-players. Many will work well in the game anyway. The opposition ought to be playing hardball.

Then comes Cyberpunk Sociology. This is an essay on the underlying philosphy of the game by Mike Pondsmith himself. He defines what he means by cyberpunk. It's about hard choices, emerging technologies, about how information is used and abused, and about rebellion. Get those straight, and you too will be cyberpunk. A few other voices then chip in with their opinions. Things like the place of honour, about never being alone... things to think about, about a troubled world. It's fascinating to read this in 2019 and decide if this world is worse off or better off than the real one.

Next there's a chapter on Running Combat in Cyberpunk. This looks at fights as an integral part of the game, at putting the correct spin on your brawls - rather than a review of the rules, although it does talk about how to use them creatively... and some hints and tips to make the referee's life easier during combat. There are also some sound combat tactics that you may not know, especially if you don't happen to have a military background at the elite forces level - something that applies to most of us. Interestingly, it also covers providing quiet advice to players whose characters know a lot more about combat than they do!

Then there's a chapter on Fleshing out the Lifepath... how to make it an integral part of the game you are playing, not just the character's backstory that ended once play began. This chapter, from Pondsmith again, draws on material devised for Cybergeneration and retrofits it to the parent game to excellent effect. There's a lot crammed into a few pages that can make role-playing ramp up amazingly. You may want to retool it for other games too, it's that good. And it also shows how to go beyond mere mechanical tools when you or a player has a good idea not contained within the tables. Make it happen!

The next chapter Working in the Fringe Characters rather puzzles me. It talks about some character roles as if they were peripheral, and how to weave them into your game. Rockers, Techies, Medtechies, and Netrunners are taken as examples... heck, in my games they already have a part to play! To be fair there are some good ideas to mine here. Of particular use to the fair fre referees who ban Netrunners because they find them too hard to manage properly. Other contributions run through all the roles, showing how they all have a part to play. There's also material to help you cope with a character concept that doesn't fall neatly into one of the standard roles. It ends with ways to use existing roles in unusual ways... and how to winkle the netrunner out into the field. Unfortunately, I think my referees have all read this bit!

Then there's a look at Cyberpunk Campaigns: Street or Skyscraper? The idea is most games revolve about cybered-up mercenaries doing dangerous jobs... and that can be great fun. If you are getting bored with that, though, there are ways to breathe fresh life into your game. Things you might want to try anyway to stretch the players. There are some excellent ideas for novel campaigns here.

Finally, we get Down and Dirty with Mike Pondsmith. Mind blown. Plenty here to make your players sit up and notice. Finally there's a chapter of New Rules. This includes a variant combat system called High Noon Shootout, and a section on explosives. Oh, and how to run a good bar fight or other slugging match. Just because almost everyone's packing they don't HAVE to start shooting. A good punch-up is sometimes more appropriate. This includes some new martial arts styles.

This is one of the most interesting 'Referee Advice' books that I've read. While much is tied into the setting, understanding what's here will make you a better game master whatever you run. Listen up, you primitive screwheads, you need to get hold of this. Just keep it away from your players!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Listen Up You Primitive Screwheads!!!!!
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Rough Guide to the UK
Publisher: R. Talsorian Games Inc.
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/07/2019 10:18:24

Essential reading aimed at 'punks contemplating visiting the UK, much of it is written 'in character', and it makes some grim reading. Apparently, the UK has been under martial rule for some time, but this has just been overthrown and the monarchy restored. The downfall began in 2016 when the Scots rebelled, and more and more service personnel diserted on the grounds they hadn't signed up to oppress their fellow countrymen. The Introduction covers these recent events in considerable detail - apparently despite the restoration of the monarchy, the rest of government hasn't got sorted out yet. Now they are bickering on how Parliament is to be elected. The new monarch is Queen Victoria II, who is actually identified as Princess Beatrice, the elder daughter of Prince Andrew (who, like most of the Royals had been murdered in the early stages of the establishment of martial rule... which is inaccurately referred to as 'martial law' throughout). Her mother, Sarah Duchess of York, had fled to America with both her daughters in an attempt to escape. These are real people, by the way, if you don't happen to know the British Royal Family.

This initial recent history explained, the next chapter deals with Politics and Government, which as mentioned is still in a state of flux. The restoration was engineered by a cartel of corporations, but the new Queen is showing some distressing signs of independence from them. The country is divided into sixteen adminstrative districts (a hangover from martial rule), and travel between them is restricted although it's not hard to bypass the checks if you really want to. It appears that dire as the state of the UK is, in this reality they have remained in the European Union, and are taking great advantage of this status.

We also meet two corporations - Imperial Metropolitan Agriculture (IMA), who took full advantage of martial rule to enrich themselves, and the Hillyard Corporation (which was involved in the restoration). There are quite a few others, including a reimagined English Tourist Board (ETB) that has got rather big for its boots. There's a long description of taking an ETB tour that somewhat reminds me of touring China in the 1980s. This chapter includes a section on law and order with crimes and punishments listed. The UK still maintains an anti-gun stance, at least as far as private ownership goes, and also views cyber-crime in a dim light. Police, courts and prisons are also covered here. Needless to say, in an oppressed country, organised crime and gangs have flourished, they too are described in this chapter. Apparently 'soccer violence' - which was a problem in the 1980s but has been sorted out in the real world - is also still a problem in this alternate reality, and has been joined by 'youth culture violence'. The Armed Forces are also discussed, with sufficient information for the generation of military characters if so wished. Finally, weapons and equipment are detailed for all the gun-bunnies to drool over.

This makes for a very long chapter, it could perhaps have been broken up a bit more. The next chapter is The Nomadic Movement. As you can imagine, the 'travellers' and other non-conventional peoples did not get on well with martial rule, and it took a lot of campaigning and direct action (read: terrorism) to gain concessions to live life as they pleased. Now the fight is on to retain those concessions under the new regime. There's discussion of paganism and some of their leading personalities, as well as descriptions of the main 'tribes' involved... which include biker gangs and highwaymen as well as more conventional travelling communities.

Next up, The Media. As you can imagine, the press was censored heavily during martial rule and they are now struggling to regain the cherished freedom of the press that they used to enjoy. Of course, the likes of pirate broadcasting flourished, albeit influenced by whatever corporation funded them, under martial law. There is still censorship in operation at the present. There are three newspapers (apparently British people still like reading their news off a paper copy!), and the BBC is still around, having become the mouthpiece of the miliary rulers. A sample day's programming is provided, this could make good flavour for your game. There are also 'independent' TV stations. There's a section on working in the media along with some notable personalities that might be encountered or at least seen on the screen.

This is followed by The UK: A Visitor's Guide. This covers travel, geography, food and drink, music and the arts, and a wealth of local information. Bears and wolves can be found in remote forests once again, indeed outside of intensively farmed areas, Britain's countryside has quite a mediaeval appearance. The food and drink section is quite entertaining, there's a list of recently-released albums and a section of slang, as well as some discussion of sport. There are two NFL franchises and a semi-pro league for those who prefer their football grid-iron, but for most in Britain, 'football' means 'soccer' and that is the main spectator sport. Then we move on to descriptions of the sprawling conurbations where the majority of people live.

Finally, England: A Regional Guide provides a pretty comprehensive gazetteer. This includes places to visit, notable locals and notes on what to watch out for and be wary of. There are rumours, too, and useful local contacts. North Wales has apparently gobbled up my house in Crewe, which was in England last time I looked! Apprently it's a quiet town with a club called Beechings... an in joke, as its the railway hub for the entire country, and a 1960s politician called Beeching tried to close many railway lines! Yes, despite being called England: A Regional Guide, this section covers Wales and Scotland too.

This is a magnificent exposition of a Britain that isn't, with enough ideas for Britain-based adventures to run an entire campaign... even if these ideas are ones that spawn as you read the text, rather than are explicitly mentioned. The one thing that isn't mentioned is exactly why the UK ended up under martial law. There's a vague reference to an army coup in 2001, but no indication what prompted it. Still with the oppressive nature of that period graphically described, perhaps its origins have been lost to the historical record. A thoroughly entertaining read, and a good place to send your 'punks to seek adventure.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Rough Guide to the UK
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0one's Blueprints: The Citadel
Publisher: 0one Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/06/2019 12:29:44

Billed as a 'small' citadel, I think it's actually quite a spacious one, suitable for whatever political intrigues or bloody insurrections you may have in mind. The introductory material covers the customisation possible (showing or hiding fill, numbers, grid, and furniture) and presents a legend for map symbols - and also suggests that the grid be taken as 20' squares as the place is large! There are also some ideas for how the citadel can feature in your game. This might be the centre of a larger town, or a stand-alone and self-sufficient outpost. It's on a river (or sea shore) with a dock, as well as stables, a forge, inns, and other necessities.

The first plan shows ground level, the second shows the upper level, and the third the rooftops (perfect for parkour...). There are two further plans, one showing the caverns underneath, part of which has been altered to form a dungeon complete with cells, the other presents a sewer system.

There are well over an hundred rooms to play with. The temple is massive, either whoever rules here is quite fanatical about their deity or maybe this is the base of a religious rather than secular power. Although the introduction talks about stables, a forge, and drinking establishments, most of the chambers are able to be assigned as you wish - there are some obvious stables with rows of stalls.

The main courtyard boasts a massive structure which could be a flamboyant podium or memorial of some kind. Maybe this is where whoever is in charge holds audience, on dry days! There's accommodation, a cloister, halls, two entrances, and a smaller courtyard that has a gated entrance to the larger main one.

There's a lot to play with here. Have fun designing the centre of power for a faith or an area of your campaign world - or have even more fun gifting it to your party when they reach a resonable level or pull off an amazing feat that deserves reward, and watch them making it over as they wish (and then, of course, invade!). It's an unusual edifice, yet one replete with potential to do something quite unique!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
0one's Blueprints: The Citadel
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0one's Blueprints: Vampire Castle
Publisher: 0one Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/05/2019 12:35:44

The vampire lurking in a remote and ancient castle lair is a standard image in the horror genre, so here are the tools to recreate it (you don't even need to be playing Dungeons & Dragons to find a use for these plans!). Of course it may not be a vampire who lives here at all, maybe it's the family seat of an ancient bloodline whose history is entwined with that of the lands around, or it may have been abandoned or repurposed for another use entirely - a grand hotel with hidden secrets, perhaps - or maybe your own party has been gifted the place by a grateful monarch... but you have to make it your own! The possibilities are endless.

The introductory notes offer some ideas for why the party might pay a call here, as well as providing a legend for map symbols and instructions on using the customisation tools that switch fill, numbers, grid, and furniture on and off.

The first plan gives an overview of the entire castle, with a gatehouse and curtain wall around the central structure. Perched on a hilltop with a chasm between the main castle and the entranceway, unless you are good at climbing (or can fly) it is quite difficult to gain access.

The second plan presents the entrance in more detail. There are 2 small structures on the far side of the chasm, a drawbridge, then a small complex of chambers in the outer wall with a wide passageway leading further in. This page also depicts the 'overlook' - a balcony on the far side that looks out over the lands beyond. Relatively safe from attack, this is an open area with several rooms and a terrace.

We then move on to an exploration of the main structure, beginning with the basement or Level -1. Down here there's a veritable maze of very small rooms, probably cells, and a lot of statues. This is followed by a plan of Level 0, which has several large rooms, including a hall that contains a massive statue, and shows the base of several towers. Level 1 shows that the hall with the massive statue is two stories high and also includes what appears to be a throne room.

Next, Level 2 provides the roof to some areas (including the large hall which has a dome over it) and includes high walkways to the surrounding curtain wall, including two which extend to the 'overlook' spoken about earlier. Level 3, Level 4 and Level 5 are mainly rooftops apart from some towers that continue upwards, their top levels - open to the sky - appear on Level 6. Within the castle there are many rooms, most of which have been left empty and unadorned, you will be able to have fun deciding what is there.

This is a quite magnificent castle, worthy of some great ruler or historied family. It's wasted on a vampire... if one's there, it is time to throw him out and install a more worthy resident!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
0one's Blueprints: Vampire Castle
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Tales from the Forlorn Hope
Publisher: R. Talsorian Games Inc.
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/05/2019 09:38:17

Although this is a collection of eight ready-to-run adventures, this book is a bit more than that. Whatever backgrounds your party has, it's assumed they like to hang out at a bar called The Forlorn Hope, which is owned and operated by veterans of the Central American Wars. They have gravitated to the life of a Solo, and it's a good place for rumours and job opportunities for anyone able to prove their worth in the shady world of the cyberpunk. Your party probably fits right in.

To that end, the book opens with extensive details of the Forlorn Hope itself, and a whole bunch of NPCs found there. Most of it (apart from game mechanical bits) is presented as an article about the place: you might even want to share that with your players. There are even interviews with the NPCs that help bring them to life. Floorplans and notes on setting up your game - this is intended for fairly new if not beginning characters, but you might have a more experienced party so there are notes on how to accommodate them - are also provided.

It's not all 'local colour', though. Now for the neat bit. Each adventure is linked to at least one of the NPCs. This helps the party develop a feeling of investment, the fellow at the centre of whatever's going on right now is someone they drink with regularly. The adventures are designed to be run in a single session, but of course could be expanded on if you wish. Reading the first adventure - Agency Job - it all sounds very familiar: I think I played it many years ago. It involves raiding a consulate to get information on some foreign government's clandestine activities, and then putting paid to them by sinking a boat that's pivotal to their operations. When I played it we attacked by swimming underwater, and my character enjoyed it so much she kept the skill chips and SCUBA equipment in lieu of her fee!

Other adventures follow thick and fast. Each comes with ideas for both expanding the actual scenario and for follow-up adventures. There's A Hard Road to Go, which takes the party on a simple convoy escort job (yeah, right!). The Impalers involves a trip to Europe to find one of the regulars' missing brother. Girls' Night Out is an extraction mission. Colombian Cookout is a mercenary mission in South America (but there's scope for non-combat-oriented characters as well). Fall of the Axeman is a detective job, the party needs to find out who killed one of the Forlorn Hope regulars, and why. Street smarts and a spot of netrunning will come in useful for this one, but there's brawling as well. Tough as Nails involves helping a Federal Marshal clear a friend's name in a battle against corruption in law enforcement, and finally The Last Long Rider sends the party after a cyberpsychotic veteran. Each adventure is packed with detail, maps, believable NPCs, and more.

This gets to the core of Cyberpunk. Characters living in a gig economy, picking up dangerous jobs where they can, and living a life that's fast and exciting... but perhaps not very long. A good way to get started, especially if you don't have a grand campaign arc in mind right away.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Tales from the Forlorn Hope
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0one's Blueprints: Halls of Giants
Publisher: 0one Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/04/2019 11:26:59

The idea here is that there is a multi-level underground complex that was built for and inhabited by (or at least was at some time) by giants. There's a ruined keep outside, near the entrance - was that a guardpost to protect them or was it designed to keep them in? There are plenty of things you'll have to decide, although a few ideas (one garbled beyond recognition) are provided in the introductory section, along with information on how to customise the plans (you can choose whether or not to have the heavy fill, grid, numbers or furniture displayed) and a legend for common items that may be found in the plans. It's common to all of 0one's sets of plans so not everything may show up!

The first plan is the ruined keep. Much of the walls are missing, and there isn't much aside from debris within. Even the bridge across the stream running outside looks pretty battered. It's not very clear where the entrance to the underground complex is - look for the number 1 in what appears to be a slight curve in the hillside overlooking the keep, that's where it is supposed to be.

Next is level 1 of the complex proper. It's apparently the domain of guards and warriors, but also boasts a couple of temples. Even they might want to worship after all. There are storerooms and bedrooms. The temples have pillared halls and statues, one is larger than the other. Perhaps two deities of differing important to the residents, or one is a shrine to drop in for a quick prayer and the other the location of formal worship. The way down is to be found down a corridor of storerooms and barracks, not a very smart entrance. There's another way down too, if you can find the secret door to access it!

The next plan is level 2. This is where the chieftain dwell. There's also a shrine, a forge, and several cells, as well as a kitchen and refectory and space to meet. There are storerooms and living quarters for a handful of the senior leadership as well.

Level 3 follows. This is a mining complex, built around a great rift that has been bridged in quite dramatic style. Probably not quite enough space for Gandalf to battle balrogs, but that kind of thing. There are storerooms, a couple more shrines and several crypts down here as well. The final plan depicts Level 4, which is under development, with mineshafts all around the central rift.

This all makes for an interesting complex - a somewhat militarised mining outpost, it doesn't seem to be a 'home' - but it doesn't screech 'giant'. You'll need to be creative about describing these great hallways... or maybe decide it's a 10' or even 15' grid, rather than the assumed 5' one (a scale is never mentioned, so you will be able to get away with that!). There's scope for fun exploring the place, whether it's a working mine with giants working away or an abandoned one which may or may not have attracted other residents.



Rating:
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0one's Blueprints: Halls of Giants
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