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Cyberpunk Red Jumpstart Kit
by Derrick L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/06/2019 14:53:47

I got a hold of my phyical copy of the JumpStart Kit while at GenCon this year, and I was pleasently surprised how nice this set was. RTalsorian has REALLY upped their production on the box set and on the interior art, with the entire two book set being full color with tabletop maps, standees The artwork is really top notch. While I haven't played this new iternation of Cyberpunk yet, the rules seem really smooth with some much needed modern tweeking. It is also clear there is much more to come when the full version of Cyberpunk RED is eventually released. It's especially nice to have RTalsorian putting so much effort into this new generation of CP RPGing.

Great to have Cyberpunk back!

~O



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cyberpunk Red Jumpstart Kit
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Lords and Lands: a Witcher TRPG Expansion
by Jacob S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/05/2019 05:25:22

The GM Screen contains useful quick reference tables that, as most games do, have tables that are more scattered than one would like for quick reference. Most importantly (to me) it doesn't commit the cardinal sin of having a weapons/armor table on the GM screen.

The GM Screen includes:

  • Social Standing
  • Bonus Melee Damage & Unarmed
  • Weapon Effects
  • Effect Table
  • Actions
  • Fast Draw
  • Extra Attacks & Defense
  • Diffuclty Checks
  • Example Modifiers
  • Light Level modifiers
  • Ranges & Target DC
  • Human Damage Location
  • Common Cover Table
  • Falling
  • Critical Wounds Table
  • Death Saves
  • Stabilization
  • Stabilizing Criticals
  • Healing Over Time
  • Healing Critical Wounds
  • Healing Hands or Healing Spells
  • Viggor
  • Magic Fumble Table
  • Elemental Fumble Effects
  • Learning Magic
  • Fixing Broken Weapons & Armor
  • Encounters
  • Number of Monsters = Players + 2
  • Curses: Penance & Suffering
  • I.P. Rewards
  • Currency
  • Selling Goods
  • Lodging
  • Food & Drink
  • Services

The Booklet itself contains:

  • People of the Contenint (Quick Reference NPCs)
    • Artisan
    • Criminal
    • Entertainer
    • Laborer
    • Merchant
    • Scholar
  • Hafling Race (Playable)
  • Noble Profession (Playable)
    • Noble Skill Tree
    • Estate Rules
  • Rodwolf's Wagon (New Tiems)
    • Item Descriptions

Some people are complaining about the price, honestly with myself I bought the physical good and got a coupon at a convention making it $5. It's a four star reveiw because I think if I buy a physical good I should just get the PDF.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Lords and Lands: a Witcher TRPG Expansion
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Lords and Lands: a Witcher TRPG Expansion
by Benoit L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/04/2019 14:23:36

This is a great GM Screen for the Witcher TRPG!

It also has Lords and Lands an additional and small expansion to the original book.

Good material to have in your game!

Do I wish it was longer? Absolutly, but the GM screen is a must!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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Cyberpunk Red Jumpstart Kit
by Bryan B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/04/2019 07:01:08

I haven't played 2020 for (coincidentally) well over twenty years. I've been chomping at the bit for a modern edition of it ever since Cyberpunk 2077 and Cyberpunk Red were announced.

Finally, I get a taste of what Mike and team are putting together for the modern era of Cyberpunk, and though I've only skimmed it, I (mostly) love it so far.

It's a peculiar mix of old school and modern RPG sensibilities that streamlines what my corroded memory recalls of 2020. It seems like they've gone to some lengths to pair down some of the unnecessary chaff from 2020's era into something sleeker and simpler (and yet, still crunchy enough to avoid blandness) without losing the flavor of that grand old game.

That said, the production values themselves are sleek, flashy yet somehow understated, and also consistent with the flavor of the past.

I'm eager to put this on the table and see how it all shakes out. Provisionally, it's a 4/5.

But if it plays as fluid as it looks, it will be love. {{Edit}} But not a pure love as I'm not entirely sold on the somewhat post-apocalyptic setting they are going for with the current timeline. It seems to me like they are trying to dial back a bit too much of what I love about the genre to make it more gritty when there was already plenty of room for that. They are, to me, narratively trying to scuff and tarnish the chrome a bit too much. I suspect were I to run this, I'd kick the timeline forward into a new chrome-age rather than the wastebasket Night City is in The Red.

However, I've missed this, and until I got a look at this, I didn't realize how much. We've (my friends and I) done a lot of Shadowrun in our years, but I never quite groked how much I missed the unique taste of Cyberpunk.

Hit the streets choomba. There's a city to burn...once it's been rebuilt so we can tear it all down again.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Cyberpunk Red Jumpstart Kit
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Cyberpunk Red Jumpstart Kit
by Jonathan D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/03/2019 12:58:42

Perfection. Enjoyed my games at GenCon. Can't wait to run it myself and get my hands on the new full game.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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Cyberpunk Red Jumpstart Kit
by Jackson F. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/02/2019 23:27:37

I used to run campaigns of Cyberpunk 2020 all the time for my TRPG group and during that time I absolutely fell in love with the world that R. Talsorian delivered to us. Needless to say, I was excited to say the least when Cyberpunk Red was announced.

It turned out to be everything I wanted and more!

All of the confusing and needlessly complex parts of CP2020 have been streamlined and made much more player friendly. Netrunning is now a comprehensive and fun class to run, instead of a confusing 40-paged nightmare. Combat is now quick and exciting, allowing players to move through turns in rapid succession instead of calculating "how many bullets hit where" on the target person. All in all, being a player has never been easier or more fun.

GMing has also been made a dream with various different options and play styles provided by R. Talsorian in the one adventure provided by the Jumpstart Kit. This is a great intro for players who want to start GMing in the world of Cyberpunk.

The Rulebook itself is much easier to understand than 2020's core book. Necessary tidbits are bolded or given massive text boxes. They also provide examples for all skills and netrunner abilities, getting rid of the chance for misinterpretation by players and GMs. The art is gorgeous and the layouts are sleek. The Rulebook provides you everything you need, and keeps you wanting more.

The World Book provides amazing and shocking details about the events that have occured before and during the "Time of the Red". The amazing art from the Rulebook carries itself over into the World Book, continuing the trend of sleek and edgy stylization that has been made a staple of Cyberpunk. A must read for GM's and a fun insight into the world for players.

Overall, I am beyond impressed by the quality that has been provided by R. Talsorian Games. I can not recommed the Cyberpunk Red Jumpstart Kit enough!

See you in Night City, Choombahs!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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Cyberpunk Red Jumpstart Kit
by Gary H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/02/2019 22:57:59

I dont normally write reviews so I'm going to present this in bullet points.

This as somehow maintained its gritty feeling while still streamlining the mechanics. Wow

I love how this is written. Straight and to the point. So many rpg products I read and play these days are so overwritten and their content stretched to increase page count hat it detracts from the content. This product is efficient and I love that

the art is desperate, gritty, dark, evocative, inspiring, beautiful and maintains the feeling of Cyberpunk.

Net running my biggest fear was that net running would be slow and unplayable. Holy smokes I'm 100% sure that we will have net runners in mygames. I love what they have done with the mechanics and the lore to support those mechanics.

Combat still feels deadly but also feels streamlined and spead up. Fantastic.

mechanics are very logical and easy to understand and use at the table without sacrificing that gritty dark future Cyberpunk feel.

Pre Gen characters are great but still provide some customization. I can see keeping them around for quick pick up pcs or npcs.

This product has surpassed my expectations in every way. I haven't played Cyberpunk in over 20 years and I can't wait to use this in the coming. weeks



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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Cyberpunk Red Jumpstart Kit
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/02/2019 13:54:33

There's a whole heap of goodies in the download or in the box, depending on which version you have. Apparently the box also contains dice, otherwise there's no difference in the contents. Two books, reference cards, maps, pregenerated characters and some standees... everything you need to leap back into the near future.

Where to start? The 45-page Rulebook seems promising. This begins with The View From the Edge, an essay that sets out the stall of what it means to be cyberpunk. This paints the picture from the earliest days, when cyberpunk was the province of science-fiction authors, through the fictional alternate history that permeates the game from its first incarnation as Cyberpunk 2013 and then Cyberpunk 2020 - don't worry if you are not familiar with these games, you'll get the idea. However, the Fourth Corporate War has cut a swathe through everything, and much of what the cyberpunk of 2020 thought was normal is no more. Even Night City was a casualty, a nuke apparently. We're now in 2045, but there's still a place for the hip, freerolling, wired-in cyberpunk, operating more on the wrong side of the law than the right.

A brief precis of what a role-playing game is, for those who don't know, and a glossary of streetslang - you gotta sound right, choombatta, and then on to section 2: Soul and the New Machine. This takes a closer look at the philosophy, the look and feel, of cyberpunk... and reminds that, a major corporate war and the use of nuclear weapons later, there are few if any vestiges of civilization that would be familiar to people in society today. Players need to remember that it's personal, style over substance, attitude is everything, and you need to live on the edge. Oh, and rules are there to be broken. Then there's a look at Roles (read: character classes). There are nine: Rockerboys, Solos, Netrunners, Execs, Techs, Lawmen, Fixers, Medias, and Nomads (not all are covered in the Jumpstart). Next an overview of the character sheet, follwed by details of what everything means in terms of playing the character game mechanics-wise. The skills used for the pre-generated characters are explained.

Next up, 3: Lifepath. This is the system for generating a background for a character, and even with pre-generated ones there is scope for putting your own spin on the character that you are going to play. At each stage you may choose an option or roll for it. There's an example of how to do this, along with explanations of what this means for the player... and how it provides a bit of fun for the GM as well. All that backstory ready to exploit!

Then comes 4: Putting the Cyber into the Punk. This looks at the uses and abuses of cyberware, how to be stylish about your enhancements, and how the end-point of the exercise is survival - yours. With a few scary notes on cyberpsychosis, there are details of the various types of cybernetic enhancement you can have. Just remember: it's as much about fashion as it is about utility. We then move on to 5: Getting it Down. This covers how you actually play the game, when its time to use game mechanics rather than role-play to advance the plot. A lot covers combat because, let's face it, that's when you need to get the dice out... and of course it's a part of the game that most people enjoy. There's also a bit about task resolution, especially opposed tasks, when you want to use one of your skills to accomplish something.

Next, my favourite bit: 6: Netrunning in the Time of the Red. This explains the gear you need to go netrunning and how to use it, both in-game and in terms of game mechanics. This includes getting into brawls in the Net, which can be as deadly as doing so in the meat world. There are also times the Netrunner will have to go along with the rest of the infiltration team and brave the dangers of that sort of combat as well. This ends with an example Netrun, then back to real-world combat with 7: Thursday Night Throwdown, a variant on the original Friday Night Firefight rules. It's all an aid to streamline combat, to give you all the thrills without getting bogged down in the minutae of the rules. An alternate to brawling, the use of Reputation as a competitive sport, is also covered here. Finally there are summary cards of each of the pregenerated characters.

Speaking of pregenerated characters, there are 6 of them, with rather silly names - Torch the Tech, or Grease the Fixer... well, you may change those to something a bit more sensible if you prefer. Each comes with a page of backstory, character portrait and a full character sheet, as separate cards to give to each player.

The second book (or PDF) provided is the World Book. This provides 50-odd pages of background, setting, and adventure, starting with 1: Welcome to the Time of the Red. More detailed recent history explaining what the Fourth Corporate War was and how much damage it did to the world you now inhabit. The United States is fragmented, no longer a superpower. Night City, even 20 years later, is still a mess. The rest of the world is also in a state of flux. A good chance to make your mark, you might think, if you survive long enough, that is. Megacorps also suffered, but there are still corporations flexing the muscles pretty much unchecked. Then 2: Dark Future Countdown gives a detailed timeline of events from the 1990s onwards to the present day of 2045.

It may be battered, but Night City is still there, according to section 3. This gives a potted history from its foundation in 1994 to the present, bombs included. It's in the middle of a veritable fury of rebuilding, plenty of opportunity there. Just avoid the Hot Zone Wasteland, where the central business district used to be. Plenty here on politics, public services and law and order... yes, there is some! The next section 4: Everyday Things gives the lowdown on living there, aimed particularly at newcomers (which players will be, even if their characters are not... it's often best to play the characters as new arrivals too, so both can learn together about their new home). Vehicles, weapons, getting the news, shopping, it's all here. The food sounds terrible, though.

We then move into GM territory with 5: Running Cyberpunk Red. Plenty of good ideas about how to make the environment come to life for your group, opposition they might face, activities they can engage in. There are some sample encounters you can throw in whatever is happening, whatever the characters are trying to do. Finally, there is a fully-fledged adventure, The Apartment. The basic idea is that all the characters in the soon-to-become party live in the same apartment block, one of the few privately-owned (by one of them) blocks in the entire city. Someone wants to change that, gobble it up... and so the party needs to unite and fight for their home. There are notes on the other residents, and suggestions as to what might happen: pick and mix as you choose. There are some plans too. But that's not all. A collection of Screamsheets present more ideas for further adventures which you'll have to flesh out, three of them.

This contains all you need to get going, to see if the new version of Cyberpunk appeals. It doesn't matter if you don't know the original game, but if you do it moves the timeline along in a logical and believable manner. If you don't, just jump in and enjoy the delights that await!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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Cyberpunk Red Jumpstart Kit
by Jason S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/02/2019 10:07:29

I have thoroughly enjoyed the new RED update to the Cyberpunk lore and gameplay. Can't wait for the official release of the product. Until then, I'll be playing The Witcher.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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Cyberpunk Red Jumpstart Kit
by Sean C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/01/2019 18:31:08

I recently started Cyberpunk 2020, but I had some trepidations on using it in the future. Mainly due to the netrunning. Cyberpunk: Red fixed netrunning in the right way. Instead of the netrunner having their own hour long netrunning session, Cyberpunk: Red has allowed netrunning to occur simulatniously to what is happening in meat-space. The only criticism that I have is in relation to Thursdaynight Throwdown. I am a big fan of the level of the complexity and level of detail in Fridaynight Firefight. I completely get the purpose of simplification of the combat system in order to facilitate the retention of new players, but I hope that the Corerule book comes with some optional rules to use something similar to Fridaynight Firefight. I am going to keep Slammin' it on with this kit!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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Cyberpunk Red Jumpstart Kit
by Dwight L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/01/2019 16:49:18

Everything V3 should of been in my opinion, the layout and writing is the best of all the Cyberpunk products I have seen to date. The reference screen is where all the game data I need to run games is at. Though only a glance as I just purchased it, I only see the weakness that I hope the full version will cover in being not enough Netrunning or Cyberware material. I had hope also in this version maybe the Mantis Blades seen in the Cyberpunk 2077 demos would have been included. Maybe in the Full Version a conversion for all the previous Cyberpunk 2020 Cyberware will be included as well. Overall I am really impressed and look forward to a full coverage of the game in future products.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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Lords and Lands: a Witcher TRPG Expansion
by SMiki L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/01/2019 16:20:33

16 pages, of which only 10 contain actual content. In half the price of the core book, which has 336 pages. Hell, goddamn Easy Mode has 32 pages, and is free. I don't believe what I bought. I don't believe you are actually selling this.

Don't get me wrong, I love The Witcher universe, I love your game. But this is absurd.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Lords and Lands: a Witcher TRPG Expansion
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Lords and Lands: a Witcher TRPG Expansion
by Levente K. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/01/2019 13:15:48
  • 10 pages of content for the price of the corebook
  • the gm screen contains a bunch of tables and info that could be looked up from the book when needed, maybe once per session, or already calculated into the charactersheets, however misses the most used tables like melee fumble table or critical wounds or verbal combat

This is poor value for the money and a great disappointment :( .



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
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Cyberpunk Red Jumpstart Kit
by Franck F. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/01/2019 11:20:44

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



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

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

… .. .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Memoirs of Auberon of Faerie
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