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Ecofront
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/05/2017 03:27:00

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This sourcebook for Cybergeneration clocks in at 82 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of index, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 78 pages of content, so let's take a look!

I received this book as a gift for the purpose of a prioritized review by one of my patreons.

So, the state of the world is not a rosy one in Cybergeneration and this book, well it details the ecological front of the struggle of the youth. It also, partially in hindsight, hits close to home. Global warming runs rampant and while industrial pollution seemingly is less nasty in our world than it is here, it still remains a problem. At least, we don't yet have acid rains from Minnesota to New Jersey and Michigan, Illinois and Ohio still have life apart from humans. Still, the uncomfortable feeling remains that the dystopian state of the world depicted herein has a couple of years left to reach this desolate state...

As is the wont in the genre, in particularly considering the theme of Cybergeneration, we have a struggle of the juves versus the man, versus the corporations, which are even more super-villainous evil and remorseless than those we actually have in our world...and that's saying something if you're even remotely interested in the subject matter. So, how did this more escalated exploitation of our world has affected the groups in this dark allotopia? Well, boy scouts have basically become an extended arm of the government and other interest groups, sadly mirroring the recent controversies that have even reached me back in Germany. Girl scouts, alas, are no better in this world. The Cousteau Society has, ostensibly, more influence and radical arms, while ironically, Greenpeace has splinter groups and remains, at least pro-forma, non-corporate. Sierra Club and Nature Conservancy have managed to secure lands and yes, the eurocorp biotechnica may actually make for a devil you could potentially ally yourself with.

Now, obviously, there are several forms of actions that are explained and detailed, from hayduking in the L. A. metroplex area to reclaiming nature, using waste as weapon etc., the pdf offers several interesting ideas - all with "the bad guys" and "the good guys" as a reminder of Cybergeneration's more traditional, comic-book-like stance of good and evil as opposed to most cyberpunk worlds. The actions, in short, can provide for a nice selection of different hooks and angles an enterprising GM can develop.

Very important for the effort and a potential campaign focus introduced in this book would be the care and maintenance of J-Parks - from Jurassic Park, obviously. The chapter begins with an annotated article/opinion piece that depicts the stance of most folk on these institutions and, surprise, they don't like them. The pdf provides a comprehensive and easy to grasp step by step guide to generate your own J-park, including suggested skill-uses and the like...but at the same time, this chapter, to me felt flat of its own potential - while running costs etc. are covered, ultimately, the customization options for the park as presented leave something to be desired - at 3 pages, it doesn't come close to how rewarding such base management can and should be.

After a brief recap of the impact of the dread Carbon Plague, we take a look at two new yogangs, the first of which would be the NeoPioneers, who seemingly combine Wild West romanticism with survivalism, making them a highly individualistic and somewhat conservative entity, represented also by their yogang skill Frontier Guerilla, which combines infiltration, weapon-use and survivalism and is governed by INT. As before, we get information on yogang, slang, etc. - the format of presentation is the same as in the core book.

Beastieboys (and girls) would be what would happen if caring for all life and a really dedicated approach to all life would meet with advanced genetic engineering...and we have a yogang that's into the recreation of extinct species (or potentially new ones!) in a weird blend of naiveté, radical ideology and wide-eyed ecological excitement. The yogang skill, daktari, employs both EMP and INT - EMP for handling animals, INT for the cerebral aspects of genesplicing etc. As such, home incubation sets and genesplicers are included in the new item section and similarly, species-purchases are covered - for example secuity-cybercats. Much like before, these shopping-section are represented visually, simulating windowshopping From VWs (Volkswalkers - that made me chuckle!) to body harnesses, there is some seriously nice gear to be found here.

There also would be a whole new type of mutation to spring from the mutating carbon plague - the Scouts. These guys basically are tinman/bolter hybrids, who look relatively normal - with a crucial difference: These guys can extrude hexite formations that are called probes, linked with a thin wire to their bodies - most of the time, these probes thake the shape of spider-like beings and can be used for, bingo, scouting. These guys begin with the Probe Ops TECH skill at +1 and are highly customizable: Oozing, swimming, flying, multiple senses and special skills are all included - the longer the range, the harder it'll be to perceive details properly. Leashes of these probes have 10 SDP, with quadruple effect of armor piercing attacks, but none via crushing attacks. Scouts have 2 probe spaces per point of BODY and these are evenly divided over the 4 limbs. Additionally spaces used increase the SDP and they may be divided - as a whole, these guys feel like better balanced surveillance riggers to me, to draw a Shadowrun analogue - more vulnerable and less prone to sitting in heavily armored fortresses.

In the thematically fitting and well-written next section, we cover the interaction of hexite armor and high-velocity impacts, scooping up samples via probes or realistic scout sculpting. Similarly, alchemical forgery, building guns into probes and other such tricks are covered.

The next chapter, unsurprisingly, considering the focus of this book, deals with animals -Animal Handling, based on EMP, deals with...you got it. Animal Sense Bonus would be an animal's equivalent of Combat Sense for all but initiative. Identify denotes the ability to discern friendlies and Loyalty is similarly self-explanatory. Training animals by difficulty and a wide selection of stats help here as well, though the scan is not perfect - we have white lines showing up on these pages, denoting potential creases in the book used to scan this.

And that ends the player-section and moves to the GM-part, which includes clarifications, the missing price for the codegun as well as the sample adventure "Where the Wild Things are", which takes up the second half of the book. In order to talk about that one, I'll have to go deep into SPOILER territory, so potential players should jump to the conclusion.

...

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! We begin pretty much in medias res, as the yogangers witness the desperate flight of two yogangers being assassinated by corpsec - the PCs can get a package the poor folks managed to get rid off before security arrived...and yes, the bodies will be looted by the uncaring crowd. Still, this can be a bit of an issue for careful groups: The package obviously contained something that got those folks killed big time. Yes, it's a trope for the PCs to get it - but depending on player experience, they may suspect that they bit off more than they could chew. On the plus-side, from the bike's path to the corpses and vicinity, the module provides exquisite details, making the whole investigation aspect surprisingly easy for the GM to run. Oh, and one of the yogangers survived...so a trip to the hospital, past security, is next up. The PCs, ultimately come upon a kitten doomed to die...who has been modified to be a scanner, scrambling its brain beyond saving. Yes. I get it. 80s and such. It still is a cheap, cheap ploy and potentially frustrating for the players - why shouldn't they have a cool scanner-kitty? The module specifies explicitly that they can't save the kitten by any means, which is just cheap and to me, infuriating and needlessly cruel and dark, particularly when playing with kids. Not a fan.

Anyway, via blatant emotional manipulation, the PCs are thus motivated further (as if that was necessary...) to get to the bottom of the mystery - and the trail leads to the Larson Park raiders, contact with the Eden Cabal and then focuses on the raid of a lab (with EXQUISITE detail regarding security, maps, counter-measures and read-aloud text) and recovery of a gene-splicer (which takes on a slightly uncomfortable turn, considering the violent attacks on labs in the meanwhile since the book's release) - from here on, several clues point towards Death Valley - where contact with NeoPioneers will provide the means to find the final part of the module - and here, things take a turn for the horrific. Know those "secret labs"-horror movies where something went horribly wrong? Well, we have basically one of the best renditions of that trope I have ever seen: An AI, strange and creative mutants, a claustrophobic atmosphere...and finally, the PCs may clear up an interesting mystery, have a hint of a potential source for the Carbon Plague and made a lot new allies - provided they can get out of the whole scenario alive and not be arrested by the adults, obviously. The final section of the adventure is amazing, evocative and fun.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no glaring glitches. Layout adheres to a nice two-column b/w-standard and the book sports a ton of cool b/w-artwork. The electronic version leaves a lot to be desired, though: The scan-glitches can be found throughout the book and while they don't obscure crucial parts, they are jarring to see. Worse, this massive book's pdf not only clocks in at over 30 MB, it also has NO BOOKMARKS. For a book of this size, that's a big no-go and comfort-detriment.

Edward Bolme & David Ackerman's Ecofront is a product of its time, sure, but many aspects of it remain surprisingly topical, though public awareness of ecological problems has once again waned, as media manipulation, economy and the issues of globalization took center stage in our consciousness. The first half of the book, as a whole, has aged rather well, though some 80s themes would need updating today. The scout represents an overdue addition to the roster, though system-immanently, its inclusion can generate waiting players while he scouts ahead. Still, nothing short of the issues deckers and riggers tend to generate due to the limitations of probes.

There are, alas, some aspects of the book that fall short of what I expected. Number one would be the barebones and lackluster J-park base-building section, which really needed more material and customization options - it feels like an afterthought. Number two is the start of the module. Don't get me wrong: I absolutely ADORE the attention to detail, breadth and scope of it; I LOVE the final area and the wealth of information provided for the GM. The maps don't hurt either. But how it starts is a blatant and transparent emotional manipulation.

Why did this infuriate me so? Well, for one, Cybergeneration's central premise is "good kids vs. bad corporations" - we already know that corps are evil. The module starts off with a frickin' assassination! If that's not enough to draw the PCs in, then what is? We know who the bad guys are. And then you introduce a kitten, just to kill it off? Seriously, that's a level of grimdark misery REGARDLESS OF WHAT THE PCS DO that so won't fit with how Cybergeneration tries to differentiate itself from other cyberpunk games. That is not only railroading, it is railroading coupled with the worst kind of emotional manipulation. Now, here's the thing: I like dark, but it has to be executed well. I'm not screaming "But what of the kids?", mind you - I think that kids can stand A LOT more than what our often disgustingly sugar-coated TV-program and books provide - I am very much confident that kids can grow from confrontation with horrid and dark themes. Heck, as a kid, I loved my Howard, Batman animated series, Last Unicorn and all those delightfully dark children's movies. My favorite Disney song as a kid was Hellfire from the Hunchback of Notre-dame.

But no-win scenarios of pure misery in a game? That's bad adventure-writing and contrivance, regardless of whether your audience consists of kids, adults or both. It also is PAINFULLY obvious, so obvious that even kids got it and were annoyed in my test-run. Finally, it subverts the tone of Cybergeneration, undermines what, to me, makes up its unique selling proposition. More infuriating would be, that, from a purely analytical point of view, this needless tragedy is utterly superfluous. The inevitable death of the kitten is literally, just a plot-point, a means to propel the plot forward and engage players, when, to me, it did the opposite, it sank the complete first 2/3rds of the module, only barely coming back from it in the finale - which is also dark, yes, but here, the tone works and is not reliant on what boils down to cruel plot-fiat.

Yes, I know. It's one point. But it's a big one for me. Still, as a whole, that would not sink the book for me - there is a lot to love here. But the lack of bookmarks and minor scan-glitches add a further level of frustration. I like a lot here, but I also finished this book underwhelmed by other aspects. In the end, to me, this represents a mixed bag. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Ecofront
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Bartmoss' Brainware Blowout
by A customer [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/12/2017 18:07:15

Not a Brainware Supplement

Despite the title, Rache Bartmoss' Brainware Blowout is not a brainware supplement. It doesn't include any additional neuralware, or update or consolidate the original game's and earlier supplements' neuralware.

It is a netrunning-ware supplement. It includes a variety of cyberdecks, computers, cybernetics, and software for netrunning. It includes some additional cyberdecks, software, etc. which had appeared in the original Netrunner card game. It doesn't require the card game.

It also adds some non-player characters based on the Netrunner card game.

The cybernetics are far ahead of our time, while the computers aren't. There are direct neural links, and there are keyboards, so there are still options for people who can't use touchscreens.

One objection: The main text uses slurs.

Two bugs: Brainware Blowout won't display on older Kindles without either special software, such as Kual or Librerator, or extensive re-processing. Brainware Blowout doesn't have any text layer on some pages, or the sidebars of other pages, making it that much harder to search it on any devices or to convert it to epub.

I would give 3 stars to a hard copy, or a bug-free pdf, but only 2 to the buggy pdf.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Bartmoss' Brainware Blowout
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Castle Falkenstein
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/19/2016 09:27:03

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive RPG clocks in at 226 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page back cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 2 pages of editorial/ToC, leaving us with 221 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, what is Castle Falkenstein? In short, it is one diceless pioneer of the pioneers of both Neo-Victorianism and steampunk-aesthetics. The year if 1870 in an allotopia of our own world and it, unlike the literary genres, does not necessarily take a grim or even dark approach to the era: Instead, it very much embraces a fantastic glorification of the good, high life or the upstanding, virtuous epitome of the age of enlightenment before the cynicism and disillusion of fin de siècle and modernism set in.

Castle Falkenstein's take on a fantastic, steampunk world does assume the existence of dragons, faerie lords and an enlightened New Europa with an economy driven by steam and magic. PCs are called dramatic characters and the game, being diceless, is a relatively narrative-driven experience. Instead of dice, Castle Falkenstein employs cards. The system, as a whole, is very concise to the minutest detail - why no dice? Gentlemen and ladies use cards, not proletarian dice, obviously! So, if you expect to play the plight of the common man, then this will not necessarily deliver; instead, the focus of this system lies in depicting the gentleman scholar; the daring lady, the fey lord, where swords and weaponry clash in the name of high romance, a fantastic iteration of Jane Austen, as seen through Midsummer Night's Dream.

This emphasis of clean cut heroes and villains is represented in the book, for you are asked during character creation if you're good or evil. No neutrality, no shades of gray; this is about absolutes. Character sheets are small notebooks, intended to be filled out by the characters as they explore the fantastic world and a generous list of questions allows you to further and more clearly define the character you are creating.

Castel Falkenstein, as a stand-alone, features a total of 20 abilities - you choose skills that have ratings; one of these will be "Great", four will be "Good" and one "Poor" - all other skills remain at the rating "Average". These ratings basically double as a kind of bonus. To determine success of an action, you draw a card from a standard deck (you only need two of those to play) and add your rating. Simple, right?

Well, let's talk a second about the deck: The suite determines the type of challenge the card can be used for: Spades cover social challenges, also those pertaining to status; Hearts deals with emotional challenges (so basically empathy, sanity, relating, etc.); Diamonds are used for intellectual/scientific challenges and Clubs are used for physical challenges. Playing an appropriate card allows you to add the face card value to the respective challenge. When using a wrong suite for the task, you only add 1. If you e.g. tried to understand a complex engine about to blow and played a hearts-card, you'd only add +1. If you played a 6 of diamonds, you'd add +6 instead! So make sure you play your cards right!

As an aside, this system results in players, quite naturally, oscillating between the various types of skills: You will not find the traditional class-skill-dispersal in the game: Soldiers will use social skills, ladies will engage in physical pursuits, etc. - as an aside here: The lamentable sexism and unpleasant stance towards the fair sex in our historical Victorian age does not extend to the reality of Castle Falkenstein, explaining a more enlightened stance towards women as the logical result of fey ladies et al.

Back to cards: Face cards also have values assigned: Jacks clock in at 11 and every step beyond that adds +1 to the value, with aces trumping kings at 14 points and jokers delivering a whopping 15 points. Castel Falkenstein recognizes 5 levels of skill success: Fumbles happen when you have half or less of the required number; failures denote less than the required number. Partial success means you beat the number; full success when you exceed the target number by half or more and high successes exceed the target number required by double. Each player only holds 4 cards and the same holds true for the Host, the term employed for the GM...and all draw from the same deck.

Sorcery is working in a similar fashion and makes use of the second deck, but the suite in question here determines the type of magical effect the cards resonate with. Drawing more cards takes time to gather up energy and playing a wrong type of card can "taint" the respective final manifestation of the effect in question.

If that sounds opaque, let's take a look at an example, shall we?

All sorcerers belong to a Sorcerous Order. You have access to the Lore of that order. Unlike many fantasy systems, you don't have set spells that you memorize and then cast. Spells involve research and the cost is highly variable depending on a varied array of parameters, and you can only start gathering energy to cast a spell once you've determined these parameters.

Let's say you are part of the Illuminated Brotherhood and wish to use their Lore Simple Geas to exert control over someone. It has a base Thaumic Energy Requirement of 4. You would need to work out your Definitions, so Duration - how long do you want them to be under your control, the Range you'd need, how many people you'd want to affect, how well you know them, etc. In other words, with the same Lore, you could craft a spell that would enspell your significant other for a few seconds to engage in some nasty household chore, or one that would let you exert a massive amount of control over a vast array of strangers, forming them into a temporary army - but they would have wildly different Energy requirements. With the first of those, let's say you want it to last for 5 minutes, that adds 2; simple adds 1; touch adds 1; single subject affected adds 1; subject is mortal adds 1; know subject well adds 1. This results in a total of 11, from which we'd subtract your Good sorcery of 6 to bring us back down to 5. After determining this value, you'd begin drawing cards from the sorcery deck. The Aspect of this spell is Hearts. Any heart card you draw adds its value, any other CAN add 1 point of "unaligned energy", but using unaligned energy will add harmonic effects. You could also "release" an unaligned card (rules-language for returning it to the deck) and redraw, so if you are prepared to take more time, you can gather purely aligned energy - but if you are in a hurry, you might have to a take a risk with harmonics and the taint they add to the manifestation.

Combat resolution, ultimately, is working in a similar manner, with the amount of damage dealt being based on the weapon as well as the level of success of the respective attack; If you expect to take more than 3-4 good hits, then this will not be perfect for you; this is very much an allotopia, which means that characters, ultimately, are fragile. However, at the same time, there probably won't be too much PC-death: Much like the romanticized novels and literature, killing blows need to be declared. This, btw., also brings me to the subject of gender: If you're not playing a heroic woman and rather a lady, you'll rather be disabled by swooning, intense social confrontation, etc. - some of my female friends enjoyed this, while others...well, didn't, though these still had the chance to play other characters.

Anyways, there also would be the duel-engine, which works radically different from regular combat: The two characters have a hand of six cards: Two black, two red, two faces. Faces represent rests, black cards defense and red card offense, with the Fencing skill determining how often a character must rest after an exchange. A defense card automatically negates an offense card; an offense card unopposed by a defense card results in a hit. The pdf provides concise rules for the dueling experience, including weapons-changes, movements, etc. - interesting: When you trick foes into defending while you are resting, you have feinted them. While it may look cumbersome to have special dueling rules and while that means that other PCs will be waiting, it is an interesting fact that you can pretty easily live action simulate a duel fought via the card system, which can make for a truly interesting experience.

Speaking of which: The experience of reading and playing Castle Falkenstein are pretty different from what you usually receive. For one, the book's narrative framework follows Tom Olam, a computer game designer who was magickally abducted to the reality of Castle Falkenstein; as such, we read about how DaVinci's devices changed the worlds, how accords with the fey were made (you can actually play fey and there is a TON of fey influence here!), how King Ludwig did not lose the battle of Königgrätz and how that affects e.g. the way in which Bismarck is seen.

The latter aspects are particularly hilarious to me: I live about 2.5 hours from Schloss Neuschwanstein, grew up with tales of the mad king and in history classes, we learned, in detail, how Bismarck pretty much was a voice of pragmatic reason in an insane German political landscape. The attention to detail given to this magical, steampunk alternative to our own world is frankly impressive: From proper ways of addressing people of different social orders to dressing the part and even proper nomenclature, the book provides a level of detail and logical cohesion that is amazing to just soak up: When e.g. dashing Marianne first opens her corset when getting ready to duel, you can almost see the lighter, more fantastic pre-Penny Dreadful steampunk age of enlightenment and sophistication come to light. It's like reading Ford Madox Ford's "The Good Soldier" minus all the cynicism and breakdowns and the inevitable all turning sour. Castle Falkenstein is fantastic in the truest sense, with Bayern fielding its own aeronavy, uniforms with their own designs and the influence of the dwarven people being just as pronounced as that of the fey.

It should also be noted that a short 3-page introduction scenario is included, set in, where else, Vienna. It is very hard to properly encapsulate the experience of reading Castle Falkenstein within the confines of a review, mainly because the less tangible components of this game are what makes it shine - the attention to detail, the imagination and love that went into the details of this book.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout is interesting: The first half of the book, the novel-section depicting the escapades of Tom Olan, is depicted in full-color, with artworks that make use of the aesthetics of period-piece artworks. The second half of the book is in b/w, contains the rules-information and is more aesthetically conservative. The electronic version of the book has a HUGE downside: The lack of bookmarks makes it basically impossible to efficiently use at the table: Get a print copy or print the pdf, otherwise you'll be in for a world of pain, particularly regarding the sorcery rules, at least in the beginning.

Michael Alyn Pondsmith's Castle Falkenstein is considered to be a classic of the steampunk genre and there is ample reason for that status. Unlike 90% of steampunk books and supplements I've read, it is not a loveless pastiche. It is not a book based on the futile attempts of making the reader feel clever for remembering some vague, hazy aspect of college-level history in another context. Instead, it is an exercise in expert world-crafting, where the very rules-system enforces, rather than detracts, from the immersion. The focus on high romance and the fantastic lend an angle of innocence to the whole proceedings that is downright refreshing: Instead of the grimdark sense of cataclysms we know from the fin-de-siècle and the 1920s, the emphasis here, unlike any gaslight-era setting I know of, lies on an impossible age of magical realism and chivalry in a very believable context. This does not mean that this is necessarily "unrealistic" or too b/w, mind you - instead, picture it a bit like the Victorian age equivalent of Prince Valiant comics (as an aside: The guy's called "Eisenherz" - literally "Ironheart" in German...much cooler!): I.e. you have a very resonant historic/mythological resonance, suffused with alternate concepts, but still very much and deeply rooted within the realities and possibilities of our own world.

In short: Castle Falkenstein is a phenomenal, captivating campaign setting and one that can depict e.g. comedies of manners just as easily as flying ship combats. This is, one of the very best steampunk settings/worlds I have ever read, regardless of whether you look at RPGs or at literature. Well, perhaps, you'd have to take away the "punk" aspect. Castle Falkenstein is neither gritty, nor grimy - it is a game of sophistication, manners, and as such, an exquisite delight - so steamsophistication would make for an more adept, if perhaps less catchy description.

That being said, the book, as amazing as it is, does have a couple of rough spots that a new edition, should we ever get to see one (which I ardently hope!), should clean up. The worst of the offenders being, frankly, organization. Castle Falkenstein, when you first open it, is a daunting proposal, intimidating even. Unlike e.g. Lords of Gossamer & Shadow and other diceless games I have played, the presentation of the rules frankly feels at times a bit obtuse: When you try to find out about e.g. rules for duels and first get an explanation of how everything works in a social context and in-game reality, that generally helps the sense of immersion, but locating the actual rules governing something can still be an exercise in frustration. Much like the often meandering prose of the age, Castle Falkenstein sometimes gets bogged down in evocative and captivating tidbits that inspire, yes, but that also detract from the playability of the game, in particular in the beginning.

My first session with the game was pretty problematic and, considering the high standards I have as a GM/Host, for my own ambitions, an unmitigated failure. This was mainly due to my own shortcomings, though: In order to play this game properly, I'd strongly suggest to have every player read this book. And make notes. It does not suffice to simply read it and guide the players through the process of character creation, particularly when sorcery's involved. In short: If your whole group is not prepared properly, the game can come to a grinding halt. So yes, rules-presentation is somewhat obtuse.

At the same time, once you DO have learned the rules (and they're not that hard...), the game offers an absolutely delightful playing experience that lends itself perfectly for dressing up, speaking in character and using all those hundreds of tidbits and knowledge you have gained from literature and history: Whether it's small facts from the lives of aristocracy, customs, or the tales of Jules Verne (yep, all historic personalities...did you know that Moriarty is sometimes in cahoots with Phileas Fogg?), from high adventure to comedies of manners and all in between, Castle Falkenstein delivers in a manner that is both heartwarming and amazing.

It is not the easiest game to learn; its lack of bookmarks sucks big time; but still, I can't help but love this world. It has so much heart and is so bereft of cynicism, so wondrous, that it makes for a fantastic experience to play. If you're lucky enough to have players that wholeheartedly embrace the aspect of ROLEplaying, that have the notion, knowledge and inclination of making evocative characters, doing their research, etc., then this is phenomenal. At the same time, Castle Falkenstein's appeal, more so than many an RPG's, is in my opinion based on the willingness and capability of immersing yourself and the group within its setting: If you have one player who just can't stay in character, who continuously blurts forth references to modern day life, who just can't get the appellations etc. right, you can make him a character from our world, stranded here...sure. But at least as far as I'm concerned, that somewhat detracts from the appeal of the world. Perhaps I am too elitist, but I can't picture anything more jarring. That is not to say you can't play like this, mind you: Frankly, you could go full-blown Bill & Ted with this, though personally, I think that would detract from the lovingly-crafted blending of historicity and fabulation.

How to rate this? Well, if you want to use the electronic version on a device...don't. 3.5 stars, at best. A core book sans bookmarks? Unacceptable and only good for being printed out. If you DO print it out, it becomes a whole different beast, though: Once you get past the somewhat rough start, once everyone has learned the rules and read the whole book (seriously recommended here!), then the game is absolutely amazing, evocative, captivating...a pure joy. On a formal level, the needlessly meandering and somewhat obtuse presentation of the rules is a big hurdle for the book, one that makes it suitable primarily for groups with some roleplaying experience already under their belt.

In the end, it is due to these structural hiccups and the lack of bookmarks that I cannot rate this book as highly as I'd like to - one of the two could be forgiven, but both, in conjunction, generate an overall unnecessary bump when learning the system. That being said, while my review cannot exceed a rating of 4 stars for this reason, Castle Falkenstein proves to be an exceedingly rewarding reading and playing experience that rewards those who manage to bypass the initial bump...and as such, it does receive my seal of approval. If you are looking for high adventure and chivalry and want a roleplaying system with a sensibility that rewards honor, virtue, etc. - this is exactly what you've been looking for!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Castle Falkenstein
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Fuzion Core Rules
by Mitchell G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/30/2016 18:36:09

The sheer versatility of the system and ease of play is the biggest reason for why I love this system so much and is my go-to for a game that I am not sure what other system to use. My only gripe was that I wish that it had additional stuff for genres and things from the other systems that he had based this off of (Cyberpunk, Mekton, Sengoku ect.)



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Fuzion Core Rules
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Cybergeneration: The 2nd Edition
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/28/2016 05:29:31

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive game clocks in at 250 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 2 pages of ToC,1 page back cover, leaving us with a massive245 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This book was requested as a prioritized review by one of my patreons. Additionally, said patreon has graciously provided a print copy, thus moving this further up in my reviewing queue. Thank you, Chad!

So, what is Cybergeneration's 2nd edition? well, you probably know the grand daddy of cyberpunk RPGs, right? No, not Shadowrun, talkin' bout Cyberpunk 2020, my friends! Anyways, the original cybergeneration was basically a subsystem, whereas this, the 2nd edition, constitutes a stand-alone setting that still maintains compatibility. Got that?

Well, so what about the world? You see, this book's focus is pretty radically different than that of most other cyberpunk games. What does the genre evoke for you? Probably some images of steel-clad towers, mighty arcologies, horrible megacorps and a fight for survival within the shadows of the moloch of an industrial complex that is grinding all free will, right? Well, this one takes place in 2027 and the big fight between the revolutionaries and counter-culture advocates of the 2020s has been decisively won - much like the Hippie culture and many another counter-/sub-culture movement, the sell-out happened. 2027, the former rebels have sold out and been mostly integrated into corporate structure; parents work 16-hour shifts and the nuclear family's a thing of the past. In the absence of family ties, a tribal structure has developed among the chronically bored, the desolate and lost kids of the age. Additionally, the presence of a mysterious plague, oftentimes lethal, but just as well survivable, has basically introduced special mutations among the youth, enhancing them beyond the normal - these are the members of the cybergeneration. This book is the chronicle of their tales.

Anyways, we begin unlike any other roleplaying game I have ever witnessed. You read a screen. A mysterious figure named Morgan contacts the juvepunkers and tries to steer them to safety. You give them a map. It shows weird signs. Some of them represent the patrols out to get them. They avoid them as spinners (advanced aerodyne vehicles) rush overhead. They need to get to safety...and once they have, it's time to choose an allegiance or gang, if you will. Yep. You heard me right. Character creation happens mid-adventure. And after each decision...well, the plot goes on.

The book provides a COLOSSAL amount of options here - a total of 18 such groups, called yogangs, are provided - each featuring notes on how you involved with them, how your relationship with other juvepunks is. Each of these yogangs grants access to a particularly powerful/unique skill that is exclusive for the gang. All right...so what are they? In all brevity: ArcoRunners are the ones who explore the intestines of the grand arcologies - the tunnels, shafts...and use this knowledge appropriately. BeaverBrats are suburbanites, tricksters and infiltration experts. BoardPunks would basically be the cyber-skaters. EcoRaiders would be the radical green terrorists and defenders of nature. FaceDancers are beholden to the idea of a fluid identity and employ technology and acting to impersonate others. Glitterkids are the new money scions of the famous...or famous themselves. GoGangers would be the cyber-equivalent of hardcore bikergangs. GoldenKids are those born with a golden, diamond-encrusted spoon in their mouth...think Dangerous Liaisons. Goths...well, are goths...or what the author thought goths were about. sigh They're not goths, they're friggin suicidal vampire-posers. I digress.

Guardians would be basically a combo of neighborhood watch/boyscouts and police; MallBrats are blackmarket dealers and know their way around the megamall complexes. MegaViolents think of themselves as heirs of the Vikings and the warrior-cultures, looking for the thrill of deadly combat...Clockwork orange, anyone? Rads are the smart kids that try to employ the methodology of the system to break it from within. Squats are the consummate beggars/scavengers. StreetFighters would be the disciplined martial artist equivalents to the berserker MegaViolents. TinkerTots are juvenile techs and engineers; Tribals eschew hightech and basically can be called badass urban Neo-native Americans. Finally, vidiots are urban guerrilla media & communication sabotage experts. As a whole, these yogangs can be envisioned as the tropes for groups of youths, seen through the lens of cyberpunk and amped up to 11. The respective write-ups are incredibly evocative, providing unique terminology employed by the group (aka, group-exclusive slang) and thus further increase the sense of immersion.

Once the players have reached the safehouse , it's time for their assessment of the mysterious man (or is he a man?) named Morgan. This would be when you assign your attributes. There are 9 of these: INT (Intelligence), REF (Reflexes), COOL (Cool - resistance to stress/willpower), TECH (Technical ability), LUCK (Luck - these points may be expended to modify die rolls; they regenerate on the next session), ATT (Attractiveness), MOVE (Movement), EMP (Empathy), BODY (Body type; combo of Strength and capability to sustain wounds). You have 50 points and you MUST place 2 in each attribute; you can assign up to 8 points. Assign all 50...and character generation's almost done.

Cybergeneration knows 12 skills per character (one is the yogang skill) - you assign between 1 and 8 points to these and get 40 points to assign. These skills, however, do NOT include hacking, advanced pharmaceutics or heavy weaponry - they represent basically skills kids could have - and considering that the suggested maximum age for a PC here is 19, you can kinda understand why. It should be noted that the book does feature means to "translate" the skills of the youths into "proper" adult skills, so if your game translates their youthful escapades to more serious, adult themes, you're all covered. In fact, the book does expect that, sooner or later, the yogangers will pick up some "adult" skills. The seamlessness of the transition-mechanics is pretty impressive.

Now I've already hinted at the quasi-sentient Carbon Plague; this is where the X-men comparison comes in: There are 5 default mutations the plague may cause in adolescents (and no, as written, you have no control over as what you end up): Tinmen become pretty much living cyborgs without the hassle of humanity. Alchemists contain nanites and may break down and reassemble things they touch. Wizards are basically the equivalent of Otaku in Shadowrun -they understand binary fluently, conjure up virtuality icons by just thinking about them, etc. And yes, you may learn to make familiars, independent AI programs. Scanners let you see moods of others and take advantage of this, being basically human lie-detectors/thought-readers, while finally, Bolters can fire quasi-wires - basically, they are living tasers and may recharge easily, shock others...and no, before you ask, you can't use them as grappling hooks. The rules provided are concise and detailed, with noemnclature definitions accompanying the well-crafted fluff. Using a lot of skills will net you IP - Improvement Pints at the referee's discretion. You use these to increase your skills, though not all skills cost the same IP to improve. Learning proper edgerunner skills, obviously, is tougher for yuvegangers.

Your starting equipment is what you purchase at the mall, where massive two-page spreads not only provide the rules, but also the visuals...with the exception of the nice artwork of a pizza place. You buy blackmarket guns. Blackmarket's the emphasis, hence only an artwork of yuvegangers eating pizza. Amazing and retains the internal consistency.

All right, so how do skill-checks work? You take 1d10, add your attribute and if you roll equal or higher the DC, you succeed. 10s are critical successes, 1s critical fumbles and there are opposed checks, obviously. Stat-checks mean you roll 1d10 and try to stay below your attribute. Simple, right? The book also has its own combat system, dubbed "Saturday Night Skuffle." It knows two time units, turns and rounds: Turns take 10 seconds, rounds 3. One turn contains 3 rounds. At the start of each round, one player rolls 1d10. The Referee rolls for the opposition. On a tie, the players go first. Players then decide on order or go by the highest REF-stat. You may wait for an action, but only ONCE per turn. (An optional rule lets you delay two actions thus, though the second is penalized.) One round equals movement based on your MOVE stat. Line of sight is called "Facing". If you fire at a foe, you total REF, your skill, weapon accuracy (WA) and 1d10 - if the result exceeds the difficulty number of the shot, you hit. You may attempt to dodge on your turn, increasing said difficulty number. Auto is really lethal, just fyi: For each point over the difficulty number, one bullet hits the target. Genius guns require no skill, but have a percentile chance to hit, though scramblers etc. may modify that. Microwavers, EMP guns and cap lasers work similarly simple.

Melee works as follows: Total REF, skill, WA, add 1d10 and compare it to the defender's REF + Skill + WA +1d10. When attacking edgerunners, yogangers halve their skills, though -proper training hard to replace. Weapons are categorized in damage classes and hits reduce BODY; at -4, you're dead. The higher you roll, the more damage you'll cause - just compare to the table and there you go. The book covers falling damage, poisons and armor has 2 values: AR (armor rating) and EV (encumbrance value) - EV is subtracted from your REF; AR reduces the damage incurred by its value. Simple, clean and easy to use. Nice, btw.: You may speed up combat by rolling different-colored dice. I tried it. It works perfectly.

Now, obviously, the net is yet another crucial aspect of any cyberpunk scenario - and thus, both wizards and regular licensing is covered. The level in which the like is defined is very concise: AIM Overwatch may take an interest in you any time and programs come with a massive list. Cyberdeck stats and everything in that regard is pretty easy. Even dataforts and combat is similarly simple - simpler in fact, than non-net altercations. The presence of Virtuality, i.e. web/reality-overlap, also means that you have an easy means of adding yet another dimension to the proceedings.

So, character generation's done; the rules are covered...and now, we'll contemplate crucial takes on the adolescent themes; indeed, the book takes some serious time to talk about the mentality of the yuvegangers: Yuvegangers don't do things for money; at this time, idealism runs high and firepower will not solve anything. Let's talk about the elephant in the room: Yes, sex may be on the minds of the adolescents and adults RPing this may be awkward...but at the same time, it is a great plot-element and the book takes on the theme in a mature manner - much like X-men, the problems by e.g. the Carbon Disease and romantic involvement between people with abilities can make for a variety of unique narrative twists. Theme-wise, this is less Bladerunner, and more Streets of Fire - drugs, treachery, the leitmotifs of the yogangs and the option to join the revolution, there is a ton of stories to pursue.

The book also featured a ton of information on the timeline of the ISA, its structure, life in corporate zone America and details of the corps with their equipment and resources. The book also features one massive city - Night City, fully mapped, for your immediate use and provides the stats of edgerunner legends/mentors like Alt Cunningham, Mister John Silverhand and Morgan Blackhand.

The aforementioned adult skills are fully depicted (no need to flip books) and an easy life path generator helps speed up the process. Obviously, though, we do need more than that, particularly the referee: Hence, the final chapter of the book depicts the bad guys - their deadly cyberware; the nasty and not-so nasty organizations in 2027. The book e.g. depicts the plague-survivor-alliance, who may be helpful for the victims of the Carbon Plague, sure...but their mindset also allowed AIDS II to spread and while they are good, they may well require the help of the yuvegangers...or do more harm than good. Of course, more straight villainous organizations can be found as well. Moreover, the book features different sample NPC-stats, as well as a selection of named NPCs for your perusal.

Finally, the book does feature conversion notes from Cyberpunk 2020's base rules.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch and professional, I noticed no significant glitches in either formal or rules-language criteria. Layout adheres to a nice two-column b/w-standard and the book features a ton of great, original b/w-artwork. The pdf does have one seriously annoying issue: The bookmarks do not work and are scrambled - the handful of them that are here, that is. A book of this size NEEDS proper, nested bookmarks. If you can get your hands on the softcover, it may not be the most perfectly made of books, being softcover, but at least my copy is significantly more useful as a dead tree. So yeah, if you can get it, get dead tree or have the pdf printed and bound.

The team of authors Mike Pondsmith, Edward Bolme, David Ackerman, Eric Heisserer, Wade Racine, Karl Wu, Tristan Heydt, James Milligan, Steve Sabram, Craig Sheeley and Benjamin Wright have delivered something I would have never, ever expected.

Heck, I'm German. There is some truth to the cliché that cyberpunk's incredibly popular around here and the one game I have more experience as a player than as a GM/Referee, it's Shadowrun. I'm also pretty big on Cyberpunk 2020...and I had never even HEARD about this book. Without Chad Middleton getting me this book and telling me to review it, I would have never even looked for it. I would have been poorer off for it. This book is remarkable for 2 things: Number 1, this book features pretty much one of the most amazing, immersive means of character generation I have seen in any roleplaying game; swift, creative and immersive, the experience of running this for the first time is pretty amazing.

Secondly, and more importantly, this book provides an aesthetic I have frankly never seen before. An honest jamais-vu-experience. When properly run, this is something I would have considered to be a contradictio in adjecto: Light-hearted cyberpunk. Instead of the doom and gloom noir aesthetics, this can be pretty much a futuristic take on the "Lausbubengeschichten", i.e. the tales of the hijinx of adolescents, as they outsmart and outwit the establishment, the adults. Think of a possible theme that of Emil i Lönneberga or Tom Sawyer crossed with Home Alone and cyberpunk aesthetics. Of course, more serious themes can similarly be used, spliced in; as the characters progress, some may the theme and style mature.

In fact, if there is one regret I have regarding this book, then that I didn't have this when I was a kid/adolescent myself. Cyberpunk's grim and gritty themes may not be 100% amazing for kids...but this can be run as kid-friendly...like e.g. the animated X-men cartoon with a cyberpunk-coat. The range of themes you can take from these cartoons and comics, combined with the whole cyberpunk cosmos ends up with a vast diversity of available tropes. In the end, it can generate a stark and amazing blending of dystopian cyberpunk and more light-hearted themes. What should not work, ultimately and against all possibilities, does work and generates perhaps one of the coolest coming-of-age narratives you can wish for.

This is a hidden gem if there ever was one; the book, frankly, should be much more widely known, more popular. Cybergeneration 2027, frankly, is one of the books that made me really appreciate being a reviewer. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval - if you like cyberpunk, please check this out and if you have kids/adolescents intrigued in scifi or cyberpunk aesthetics, this will be a perfect way to introduce them to the game and slowly increase the maturity factor as they age! This may well be the first coming-of-age-roleplaying game.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cybergeneration: The 2nd Edition
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Deep Space
by A customer [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/01/2016 14:55:19

Any RPG supplement that is published in any RPG system should always provide more than enough rope for your PCs to hang themselves with. And there is more than enough rope here to get them to outer space and beyond. Most of the necessary subjects are covered for any space themed adventure, anything not covered can be fudged with little problem.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Deep Space
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Mekton Zeta
by A customer [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/01/2016 14:42:40

One of the better mecha based RPGs out there. Simple enough to cover the majority of the details you would need in an action based game, with enough left over to other more role playing issues that often crop up during play.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mekton Zeta
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Mekton Zeta Plus
by A customer [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/01/2016 14:40:38

A much appreciated expansion to the basic Mekton Z rules.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mekton Zeta Plus
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Cyberpunk 2.0.2.0. The Second Edition, Version 2.01
by A customer [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/16/2016 17:57:27

Great system, my group is really loving it. The lethality of the combat really makes each encounter intense and the lifepath system for generating characters isreally fun to use. I would recommend this book to any fan of cyberpunk.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cyberpunk 2.0.2.0. The Second Edition, Version 2.01
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Fuzion Core Rules
by Ismael A. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/08/2016 00:56:12

I grew up on these rules. They are rather interesting, and may take some getting used to, and I may be very nostalgic, but I very much loved playing with this rulel set. It will do many modern and sci-fi settings without a hitch, and I believe that there are numerous modular rule sets by fans that make this an excellent starting point for many great campaigns. Look for the rules light version, which I believe is still free, and come get this rule set for $4. It is totally worth it.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Fuzion Core Rules
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Fuzion Core Rules
by Jeffrey D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/22/2016 12:22:37

I love the fuzion system. I have worked with it since its inception. I give this only 4 and not a 5 because it is too open ended. You will have to put in some work to make it function in your world but it is very workable. It is a merging of the Hero system used for Champion game and Cyberpunk's Interlock system. The system itself is very well done but it has the shortcomings of the hero system which is how do you deal with purchasing and upgrading equipment. With superheros, purchasing them with experience points makes sense but not in a fantasy or modern genre. Money usually works best unless it is something big. With that said, I have worked with the system in a modern genre and a fantasy realm. It is simple and the play pace is fast and as detailed as you want to make it. These rules are like the foundation for the rules you will you for your campaign. It would be nice if R. Talsorian Games would produce another game using this system like Bubblegum Crisis. Where the rules are more solid on what you can and can not do. So we have more of an example of how to impliment the rule system.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
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Blackhand's Street Weapons 2020
by Hunter C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/17/2016 12:13:19

Ths book, a collection of CP2020 weapons, is a very useful tool for "Referees" (or GMs) and players alike. The weapons are detailed in CP2020 fashion, statted out and referenced from supplements, sourcebooks, and other materials.

I bought this book because the CP2020 rulebook lacked a lot of the weapons. It had starter weapons, which was good. What I really needed was a plethora of weapons from which I could choose. This book has at least 250 weapons plus one new one, a sinister rifle that anyone wants to try out. ;) It also has an ammunition section for players to purchase their ammunition. You cannot go to the Combat Zone without ammunition, chombatta!

Perfect as a supplementary book to assist Referees and players with PC/NPC creation.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Blackhand's Street Weapons 2020
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Cyberpunk 2.0.2.0. The Second Edition, Version 2.01
by Hunter C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/17/2016 12:01:30

The book comes in the flavor of the 1993 edition with corrections and clarifications as version 2.0. While the book does have some minor errors such as spelling, misplaced numbers or words, the book is a solid rulebook to obtain in softcover. the softcover is pretty strong, durable, and will keep you occupied in the late nights rolling 9 1d10s to figure out your "random" character, pick out your stats by picking specific character points, and/or do the "Fast N' Dirty Expendables" for NPCs, whether they're important or not; perfect for creating your own posergang, boostergang, or chromegang, etc.

I thought the book would be great for roleplaying the Cyberpunk universe and it does. While I am not knowledgeable about the Fright Night Fire Fight system, I am aware that the game does have its own flaws, which comes up with quick remedies you could find by googling. This does not scare me 100%.

What I do like about the rulebook is the fast and hard rules that it comes up with for character creation. The customization of your character, due to the randomness of the core stats, the lifepath, and finding a number of pickup skills (using INT & REF), is not found in any other roleplaying rulebook as far as I know. This would be the most unique rulebook I could find on the 'Net. I'd be glad if a chombatta would prove me wrong but ... not yet. :D

When creating NPCs on the fly, the pages of Night City Encounters could inspire you. There's loads of encounters with people that each player could face when randomizing the encounter by die. This could give you loads of work as most encounters have varying degrees of difficulty, the numbers of people, and affiliatons. Be prepared as a GM to do a lot of NPC creation if you wish to use the Encounter system to keep your PC going. Make sure they're afraid to die, but willing to shed blood in order to survive. After all, Night City isn't too forgiving.

Then there comes a story called "Never Fade Away" in the theme of the Cyberpunk 'verse, which you could theoretically roleplay as Johnny Silverhand and battle the NPCs using the FNFF system to get familiar with the game. It also comes with "advertisements" or "classifieds" asking about jobs, which leads the player(s) on a job, willing to do the dirty work. These are quick-to-play scenarios and may not last you an entire night.

I am very ecstatic about this book and am glad of my purchase. I do not regret buying this rulebook 100% and will continue to support R. Talsorian Games, Inc. by buying up every single PDF and print-on-demand Softcover copy to have on my shelves (as I do collect and keep roleplaying rulebooks, supplements, or sourcebooks for posterity or to play).

For an added bonus on getting the latest weapons, get the Blackhand Street Weapons 2020 1st Ed. book. While it is 48 pages, it has chronicled a lot of the weapons in different categories from the rulebook, the supplements, and the sourcebooks. ;) Great if you don't have them all but could find them in one book!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cyberpunk 2.0.2.0. The Second Edition, Version 2.01
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Cyberpunk 2.0.2.0. The Second Edition, Version 2.01
by greg m. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/13/2015 12:48:37

This is the first rpg I am aware of to try to capture the "High-tech, Low-life" feel of the literary and film cyberpunk genre, and it wildly succeeded. Of course, the game shows it's age now-a-days, what with some of the setting stuff. Who still uses fax machines? And a lot of the super fancy high tech in the game just looks dated. Wires and cables are everywhere in the game. Computer memory is made out to be a precious commodity. I feel I would be remiss if I didn't mention that kind of thing is all setting flavor and if you want to give the setting a more 2015 flavor of what the future would look like, it's not that difficult to reskin. The other approach would be to run it as a gonzo alternate future that went sideways during the 1990's. Mechanically, this is a great game. All you need to play is a single d10 and 2d6. Maybe a couple more for some of the really big guns, but I don't think that any of those were in the corebook. There are 9 stats you rolled a d10 each for, and a couple derived stats that used simple math to determine. Figure out your role... You can be a Solo, which is a classic cyber soldier, or a cop, corporate suit, a fixer (think fence,) nomad (Mad Max extras,) reporter, techie, doctor, netrunner (computer hacker) or a rock star! Slap on some shiny chrome parts to your character, get a couple bfg's, and your good to go. A couple things to be warned about, the netrunning rules take up a good third of the book, so a lot of referee's tended to ban that role or run one as a side npc so as not to use up huge segments of time the other players could be using. The combat system is this game has a bit of a learning curve, as does any mechanic for any game, but once you get used to it, combat can be resolved quickly, easily, and LETHALLY. Guns kill characters in this game. If they don't kill you outright, chances are the ambulance won't show up in time. The rule system for this game is really well balanced, and once you get the hang of it, is really intuitive. Some parts of this review may sound blase, but I am trying to give an honest review of all parts of the game; so you get the good with the not-so-good. It really is an excellent game and worthy of a 5 star rating.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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Castle Falkenstein
by Jonas M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/28/2014 02:40:20

Castle Falkenstein was far ahead of its time when it was released in the 90's and I can't say I would have stumbled on anything remotely like it. Sure, there are dozens of steampunk roleplaying games with orcs and elves but none have the same dedication to atmosphere and making it all work as whole. System and design choces make sense in what the game tries to establish, it's not D&D with guns. Propably the first and still the best best game in steampunk fantasy.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Castle Falkenstein
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