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Bastille Day
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/08/2017 04:48:15

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This adventure/sourcebook for the Cybergeneration 2027 game clocks in at 50 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 46 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Well, at least, let's try. You see, the scan this time around is not particularly good, which makes the letters come out a bit pale and gray/blurry, which proved to be a considerate hassle while reading this as a pdf. Perhaps it's me being sensitive to the like, but I considered this to be somewhat exhausting for the eyes. Anyways, this is a module, but it also features two new yogangs, so I'll start with those, all right?

Oh yeah, before I forget: This was moved up in my review-queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreons.

The yogangs are presented in the same style as those in other Cybergeneration-supplements, with a write-up, slang, etc. The first of these yogangs would be the moshers, the party hard crew - as heirs to punks, metal heads and the like, the yogang is something I can relate with: Using music as a vehicle to navigate the harsh realities of life makes sense to me. The yogang skill they get is pretty powerful - more so than I'*m comfortable with: It's called Mosh (BODY) and does not mean going into a pogo or doing some headbanging - it's whenever you do something reckless. It contains some martial arts uses, halving impact damage, staying awake - in short, it is a very wide open skill, one that may be considered to be OP, depending on how you read it.

The second yogang presented herein would be the trogs, somewhat akin to subterranean ArcoRunners - basically, trogs are the sewer/cavern-dweller, the guys and gals that creep out of maintenance shafts - think of them as Nosferatu, minus vampirism and curse-based disfigurement. Their yogang skill, Spelunking (INT), is pretty potent as well, though more situational: It lets you determine airborne toxins, nets you a spidey sense for nearby threats and the option to stare down some deadly critters. Basically, think of these guys and gals as subterranean rangers or guerillas.

Unlike other yogangs presented throughout the Cybergeneration-supplements, we don't get new tools or pieces of equipment for these guys, though, which makes them slightly less well-rounded in that regard.

Anyways, this is pretty much as far as I can go without going into SPOILERS. The following discussion of the adventure-section contains these in spades, so if you're planning on playing this module, please skip ahead to the conclusion NOW.

...

..

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All righty, only GMs around? Great! So, legends Rache Batmoss, Spider Murphy and Dog have their hands full: California has recently lost its sovereignty , and thus, the BuReloc (Federal Bureau of Relocation and Housing Security Services) activity is spiking. During a run on a CorpSec server, Spider Murphy, strangely, seems to have vanished/jacked out. Unfortunately, Spider has been captured, as she was running from the perceived anonymity of a secured, rundown locale - and has midrun, alongside a ton of others, been captured for reeducation. Thankfully, BuReloc and CorpSec don't like each other very much - and while CorpSec knows that BuReloc has Spider, they don't know who she is...and thus, they have sent a spy in deep cover to the facility - which, thankfully, has not yet been completed, using the captured undesirables as forced labor to build their own camp.

The task, for the kids, will be, obviously, to infiltrate this camp and the set-up provided for this is pretty modular. If you want to, you can include Dog as a chaperone for the PCs to make the module easier- but after the detailed and extended briefing, the book presents the full freedom of choice: Even getting to Spider's apartment to have an initial angle to start their investigation is already rather modular: Depending on the route chosen, different, fully-depicted encounters await and at Spider's place - which is now under the control of BuReloc - so the PCs will have some interesting time on their hands trying to infiltrate the fully mapped complex.

Having slipped, hopefully, through the nets of BuReloc, the PCs will have a trail to pursue - though, alas, Nomad Santiago is also MIA, potentially injured...The legwork is rather detailed as well - and once the PCs have exhausted their options, they can begin with the BuReloc camp infiltration - the camp is once again fully mapped and the supplement does take a lot of details into account - including e.g. the potential for wizards to use their gifts to reprogram the addictive indoctrination booths. Indeed, the module feels very much like an early adventure, sine the book contains a lot of tricks for the creative use of the special abilities of the kids...however, this very much shows that it is an early supplement - it doesn't use Cybergeneration on its own, often referencing Cyberpunk books and the aforementioned, unique tricks don't always come with rules to back them up. Take the mentioned, intriguing reprogramming example as one instance of this - no clue is provided on how difficult that would be.

While the CorpSec spy makes for an interesting complication, the other4 people mentioned only remain pale, with one sentence provided for them - a table of fluff-only characteristics for the NPCs would have been nice, if to make it harder to differentiate important from unimportant NPCs.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good - I noticed a couple of minor glitches and hiccups regarding rules-coverage, but as a whole, not too many jarring instances. Layout adheres to Cybergeneration's 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes with nice, original b/w-artworks. The scanning quality isn't too good, though, and the lack of bookmarks represents a serious comfort detriment.

Edward Bolme's Bastille Day is by far the weakest Cybergeneration supplement I have read so far. The new yogangs feel like afterthoughts that are tacked on and don't really have a good reason to be in the book. More importantly, the adventure feels weird to me: The kids act as help for the "big guys" and I never managed to shake the impression that they're not the heroes, but rather the b-team of sidekicks. You know, like in many a cartoon-series, when the hero's captured and the annoying sidekick gets the spotlight to save them, often to "prove their value" - I always hated that in kid's shows. (No, we didn't want to be Robin - we still wanted to be Batman. And most of the time, we still considered the sidekicks to be annoying after that...)

The name is also WEIRD. When I read "Bastille Day", I think of something more important, monumental, of something actually important, when this module presents a pretty run of the mill jailbreak scenario. The BuReloc-camp is depicted in lavish detail and I really enjoy the sandboxy nature of the module, but it is pretty much a standard extraction for Cybergeneration - it doesn't have anything cool or unique to set it apart. It does this standard-trope well, all right - I'll give it that. But any halfway decent GM who's played a couple of Cyberpunk or Shadowrun adventures can basically improvise such a scenario. I know that, particularly in comparison with the "-front"-books and modules therein, this felt rather bland.

Not bad, but similarly, not mind-blowing. Add to that the serious issues of scan-quality and lack of bookmarks and we have a supplement I really can't recommend. I love Cybergeneration and its ideas and books, but unless you're a completionist, I'd recommend to skip this. My final verdict will clock in at 2.5 stars, and I can't find it in me to round up.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Bastille Day
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MediaFront
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/05/2017 05:33:49

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This expansion for Cybergeneration 2027 clocks in at 82 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial/introduction, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of index, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 75 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This book was gifted to me by one of my patreons for the purpose of a prioritized review.

Ah, cybergeneration 2027 - here we are again, and this time, we're talking about media and its role in the comparatively now retro and not-so-far future of 2027, and, once again, the sourcebook has undoubtedly aged a bit - but actually less than what one would consider at first. The introductory, in-character chapter that highlights the status quo of the combat against the powers-that-be is interesting, in that what it says, criticism-wise about TV and the like, still holds true to this date - as a n indoctrination form of media and as a kind of sedative, its social ramifications are pretty much as anticipated. Similarly, the notion of subliminal messages, while different in how it is considered today, has found application in psychology, advertisement, etc. - the way in which the like works may be different in reality, but the notion of messages and impulses being conveyed via non-explicit means is very much one that we can observe every day.

The book does contain rules to resist the more explicit and powerful subliminal messages that are considered to be existing in the game-world and the pdf also talks about music - here, the predictions ring less true than regarding other media: Considering the way in which MP3s and the internet in general have acted as a democratizing factor for the various types of music, the notion of corporate-controlled audio-media seems ridiculous from the perspective of these days, at least if you're like me and deeply entrenched in the more obscure types of music out there. Then again, it is hardly the book's fault that it could not anticipate e.g. the existence of obscure styles like doom jazz, the infinite iterations of strange music and the like. Taking a cue from Philip K. Dick, the addictive idea of braindance, addictive control over one's endorphins via so-called braindance chips, can be found here: Not as destructive as Shadowrun's BTL-chips, but still dangerous.

The way in which virtuality is depicted is another one that has not yet aligned properly - the virtual reality here is not yet a thoroughly suffused space, though the consequences of advertisement and its less nice components in the real world should allow for plenty of inspiration to further modify this particular section. Beyond this general overview, the media stations, as presented, make for perhaps the component of the book, where dystopia and reality come most disturbingly close: The big media agencies and how they cater to ideologies and agendas. You don't have to be Sherlock Holmes to deduct how Fox News, tabloid newspapers and private persons, politicians and terrorists alike nowadays spin media, how they bury crucial information.

Here's a disturbing experiment for you: Remember in the 80s and 90s, when we all were afraid of surveillance of the Orwellian Big Brother? During the war on terror and our panic, governments throughout the world have started using surveillance methods that would have resulted in massive protests a few years before that...and worse, due to the digital revolution in social media, we don't even need to be surveyed any more: For the most part, we take care of that ourselves via our accounts, our constant sharing of even the most ill-conceived of opinions...and we thus engage in struggles we wouldn't have a few years back. Worse, at one point, we, as a collective conglomerate of cultures, seem to have lost, at least to a degree, the ability to engage in a critical discussion. It took me many years to realize that, what at one point was simply a discussion on different points of view, is nowadays considered to be "rude", that discussing politics, faith, belief etc. has become all but impossible with many folks, as any diverging opinion leads to the fear of offending one another.

I frankly don't get it. This polarization is poison for the democratic process...but, to a degree, it is instilled by media, it is the product of a dystopian vision that is much closer to our state of affairs than the Orwellian: Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World" - as he correctly predicted back in interviews (you can look those up on youtube),. we have arrived at a state, where the issue is not that valid and viable information cannot be found, but rather at a state where we have a VERY hard time distinguishing correct and crucial information from the incessant flood of meaningless drivel. It is this concept that has given rise to the notion of "fake News" in the first place - and it is devious. Why? Because the first thing any autocratic government needs to do, is to discredit media supportive of a non-autocratic stance; it is, to a certain degree, an immunization and indoctrination via doubts that hampers the ability of the opposed forces to act, while at the same time fortifying the resolve of one's followers. Never mind that, once sufficient disparity has been created, these very forces will generate what you'd consider "Fake News" by an objective point of view. As an aside, the same process has been applied, for many years, towards sciences, slowly undermining the credibility of FACTS in the public eye...but that is something for a different rant.

Sorry for the digression, but there's a reason for it: This book depicts a media-landscape that is very much the product of such a process - and as such, it remains frighteningly topical, at least as far as I'm concerned. Once again, btw., we have the respective media-outlets discussed in a way that shows players how to make use of them. Beyond these, different strategies of resistance are discussed from ski patrolling to the shotgun approach of CyberRevolution propaganda championed in Baton Rouge. We learn about erasing subliminal messages, about inserting their own in broadcasts (slippery slope there, from an ethical perspective...).

The state of the media and the history of its development (including direct cable and HDTV!) are talked about and while not all achievements of modern media structures have been anticipated, enough have been featured. Granted, the RAM-sizes discussed in the equipment-section, and the like don't look so staggering as they once might have, but as a whole, this chapter still holds up rather well, with small HDs, flatcams and the like. The pdf also explains, in detail, the jargon associated with the media landscape, which is a nice plus indeed. Media manipulation skill checks, cracking encoded information, the interaction with different forms of media - the chapter is pretty comprehensive and should allow for a rather easy upgrade to include changes since the book's original publication.

Signal piracy and all the tools for the trade are included in the respective chapter, featuring the shop-window-dressing-style classic visual representations of quite a bunch of the respective tools. Beyond these, we also are introduced to two new yogangs, the first of whom would be the lookers, who basically have mastered the art of manipulation - their yogang skill is based on ATT and is called The Look - it lets them bypass age-restrictions, score modeling contracts, money, etc. - basically, they are the good-looking style-guide. The taggers take the graffiti and tagging aspect and their yogang skill is based on EMP, allowing them to read and conceal messages in tags....which is significantly less useful than most yogang skills.

Beyond these two yogangs, we do get a new type of cyberevolved, the Jammer, a converter of sonic energy, both on the receiving and transmitting end, allowing for the modulation of one's voice, reception and stunning screams etc. The hexite-lined throat also lets them swallow contraband...some other interesting uses for the effects of the Carbon Plague have also been provided, but, as a whole, I wasn't too impressed by the jammer.

The Gen GM-section provides rules for audience approval...and it helps codifying tasks and tells the Gm to NOT follow the rules when it would hamper their enjoyment of the system. Sample NPCs are up next, with two fully depicted, including stats...

...and this is how far I can go without delving into MASSIVE SPOILER TERRITORY. The book's final third is taken up by the module "Occult of Personality" - and if you want to play this, you should jump to the conclusion RIGHT NOW.

...

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! We begin this module with propaganda: A whole bunch of it, including buzzwords etc. - namely pertaining the persecution of the Evolved, which has been on the rise for a while. The sample angles for the various forms of media we receive here add a nice level of detail (and probably uncomfortable feelings) to the proceedings. If the characters have partaken in EcoFront's module, they will remember the vidiot-yogang nightcrawlers, who are embarking on a counter-propaganda wave. The module then assumes that a family member (or nearby NPC) embraces the cold, hard logic of the propaganda and turns them in - which results in a fun assassination attempt. Yay. While the book does mention the serious impact this can have on trust between PCs and adults, it is also a VERY dark turn - not all cybergeneration games will be particularly stoked by it. Particularly if you're running the game for kids, it should be mentioned that I'd strongly suggest toning down the potentially rather disturbing fallout this can have. (Then again, a lot of movies do exactly this plotline, so I'm not penalizing the module for it - it's just something to bear in mind...)

The module continues with the nightcrawlers trying to deduce what happened, to a pretty solid guy from the CDC who vanished at one point - Dr. David Chiang. The trail leads to a killed Facer and from there, it is a series of interactions, not all of them nonviolent, with aspects of yogang street-culture, all in order to gain a V-card...and there's a mole subplot here as well. Ultimately, the information and potential crackdows should make clear that they are on to something - and while they do have the information to proof media manipulation, Chiang is still missing - and the legwork to ferret out leads is very detailed and requires some serious skill on parts of the players. With some serious legwork, the PCs can piece together enough of Chiang to make a digital V-Chiang to get on air and fight a propaganda battle - and that makes for a rather amazing and uncommon climax indeed. I really, really liked it - and yes, I only grazed at the subplots and actual tasks before the PCs...but you do want to play this, right?

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are a bit less concise than usual for Cybergeneration supplements - I noticed a few typos here and there. Layout adheres to the nice, classic 2-column b/w-standard with a lot of original, well-made and internally concise artworks. The scan this time around is qualitatively solid and didn't sport blemishes. As a huge downside, though, we get NO BOOKMARKS. Pdfs sans bookmarks make navigation a big hassle. I can't comment on the dead tree version, since I do not own it.

Edward Bolme, Will Moss, David Ackerman, Justin Schmid and Eric Heisserer's MediaFront is actually my favorite of the 3 "-Front"-expansion books. It has aged remarkably well regarding its tone and overall tropes. While its module requires some tact to pull off properly, it is also one of my favorites, as its focus on legwork and being smart is very pronounced; the uncommon finale in particular adds a sense of unconventional gravitas and tension to the proceedings, one beyond "bad guys shoot at us" - this makes the book, as a whole, by far my favorite in the expansion-series. That being said, at the same, there are aspects here where the book has aged, and where a careful facelift would make sense. The new CyberEvolved isn't that glorious and I'm not the biggest fan of the taggers either, but those remain two minor complaints in an otherwise compelling and interesting sourcebook that is well worth checking out, even beyond the confines of the rules-system.

The flaws, however, in conjunction with the lack of bookmarks for the pdf, do unfortunately prohibit me from rating this as highly as I'd like to - hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
MediaFront
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VirtualFront
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/01/2017 08:26:59

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This expansion book for the classic Cybergeneration-game clocks in at 90 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 86 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This review was commissioned by my patreons as a prioritized review.

Ah, the virtual world, as seen through the delightfully (at least from nowadays) retro-perspective of the 80s and early 90s, through the dystopian lens of Cybergeneration - we have an interesting sourcebook on our hands here, one that wastes no time and immediately situates us within the meta-narrative of the setting, explaining the legal situation and how the ISA have managed to basically abolish privacy...with the benefit of nowadays hindsight, the means by which this happened rings as delightfully top-down; as per the zeitgeist of the time of publication, it is obvious that a smart populace was considered to be the standard, not one that gleefully throws data out there...but I digress. If you need a good indicator of why I almost consider this cute, take the following sentence: "Even your cell phones are no longer considered private." If you know anything about cell phone-location, how whatsapp etc. operate...then this will get a wry chuckle out of you.

While netspace may have sounded dystopian back then, the whole section on it and how Joe ISA uses virtual shopping and the Net almost rings cute today, with chat areas and flap rooms providing forums where a degree of free speech is still maintained. Considering the existence of the darknet, this, once again, presents a delightfully retro and...positive take on the net. On a rules-level, we have a nice sidebar called "The Online Generation", which elaborates on things you can do on the web - and online encyclopedias and the like will bring quite probably a smile to the faces of most folks. Think, people - not too long ago, these types of things had to be EXPLAINED. General allowances of software and difficulties for such tasks are btw. included here.

There are aspects where the erstwhile conceptions of the future have yet to be surpassed by reality, though: The extremely immersive and potentially addictive V-sims and virtuality aspects of the sourcebook fall into this category and retain the "not yet fully realized"-status as per the writing of this review. That being said, considering that we already have people that played until they died, the potential warnings here do ring a bit like a dire prophecy for the shape of the things to come.

Really interesting from a contemporary status - the intersection of virtual reality and reality, virtual illusions and the like will sooner or later become relevant for us, as augmented reality and the like become less scifi-like during the game. The book does contain concise rules for virtual camouflage and using gaussian fields to hamper the effects of virtual reality on real life.

It is also interesting to note that the book makes certain that you're aware that the Net, for most folks, is a fairy land of infinite options and convenience - while both ISA and yogangs etc. are keenly aware of its dangers - electronic barbed wire, AIM sysops, brainwashed CorpsSec-hacking kids and the like - the book paints a picture of the web as a zone of conflict that is globally relevant and actually less cold or covert than you'd think - after all, that is the consequence of the overlap of virtual reality and real life.

Of course, considering the extensive depictions of angles, threats, etc., it should also be noted that we require some resources to navigate the virtual space. Basic rules for establishing flap rooms (safe home-bases, basically) are included, but I frankly wished this section had allowed for a bit more base building - RAW, the rules provided here are pretty rudimentary. On the plus-side, from NetBoxes to unabridged corporate encyclopedias and databases, the pdf does highlight several important resources with varying degrees of risk attached to them. A summary of Eden Cabal personalities also is nice...and the book's irreverent tone is glorious here. The chapter lists: "Netwatch. Just kidding." and then elaborates why it's a good idea to use them...

TSAIs (Transcendental Sentience AIs) are also elaborated, before a variety of different power players and net groups are depicted. Now, this is a "-Front"-book in the series and as such, it does also list the respective actions the yogangers may want to undertake, with sample allies and adversaries noted: T-squaring, Paranoia Painting, Leeching, Reality Checks...and after that, an extended Q&A-section, once again, a nice read, makes for a cool elaboration of how all of this works for the purpose of your characters - obviously, with a focus on wizards. D'uh. (And yep, sample familiars included for your convenience!)

With all of these aspects, you'll realize that we also should gain some new V-tech and, indeed, including a two-page-spread window-dressing-style artwork showcasing items, the section provides several cool tools. The first new yogang presented within the tome would be the v-punks, whose yogang skill would be Private Idaho, which allows for the creation of things - from floor to creatures...which can be EXTREMELY potent in the hands of a creative player. The second new yogang would be the Networker, basically the information-gatherers and spies of the online-world, whose datahound yogang skill is all about extremely effective online research...and in contrast, while powerful, I do believe that some slightly more precise information on what exactly you can find out would have helped getting a clue on the general potency of the skill here...but that may just be me.

That section out of the way, we begin with the extensive section on GMing successfully adventures that feature a sufficient amount of virtual components - including electronic handwriting. Legendary Rache Bartmoss is also depicted here...as are his RABIDs...which have had a rather...ähem...let's say, colorful background. Beyond that, Lt. Marcus Taylor, ISCTF field programmer complements this section.

And this is as far as I can go without diving into deep SPOILER territory - from here on out, we'll look at the adventure herein, Operation Upgrade. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

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All right, only GMs around?

Great! So, the adventure begins with the group's wizard being contacted by a mysterious mental call, which proves to be an AI called Scoop (communicating in pseudo-binary - much to my chagrin, no correct correlation of letters here to the 1s and zeroes here)...and it soon becomes evident that the AIs are inhabiting a world of their own within the net...and the trail leads, via relatively creepy and urgent timeframes to an arcade (hopefully past some distraction) and meet up with a committee of AIs that tease about knowledge regarding the origins of the Carbon Plague...and they need the PCs - they want them to enter a facility of the ISA, where 601 awaits -an evolved AI that is scheduled for deletion within 24 hours. Double-checking the task of the AIs...well, doesn't really yield helpful assistance, so it looks like the kids are on their own...or at least, they'll have no cavalry.

However, this is where e.g. the networkers come in: Leg-work is smart and the pdf actually provides a full employee-roster for the complex, requisition forms and the like; pretty impressive attention to detail! From Vidiots (introduced in MediaFront, review forthcoming!) to V-punks, the other relevant gangs are also covered, but ultimately, time is not on the side of the characters - they have to infiltrate site 601: Getting past security can be accomplished with a variety of means, though it is pretty obvious, by which route the adventure assumes the PCs to enter is pretty evident. The facility itself is fully mapped, which is rather nice, but the maps do not sport a scale, which can render descriptions a bit more opaque than they should be. That being said, since the primary mans of infiltration assumes the use of cleaning drones as hide-away spots, it is interesting to note that the pdf specifies which drone cleans what area - once again, intriguing detail!

While the AI seems to be slightly creepy, ultimately the PCs should be able to get it outside...and as thanks, the AI installs a kind of program into their brains that allows for quasi-telepathic communication...and prevents them from leaving the immediate vicinity! It claims the carbon plague was generated via computers and has, at this point, basically enslaved the PCs! While scanners receive a new ability from this ordeal, the PCs are in a big bind - as 601 forces them, time and again, into dangerous situations, its evolved AI-human-interface making the AI prone to emotional outbursts mirroring the PCs...and its operation upgrade's tasks are completed one by one...so in order to stop the AI, the yogangers will need help, smarts and some serious backbone...otherwise, the dread operations will complete...but if they do prevail, they'll have made some seriously neat AI allies...just hope that 601's done for good...

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no undue accumulation of glitches or the like, Layout adheres to the nice 2-column b/w-standard of the series and the book features quite a lot nice b/w-artworks. Cartography is functional, but the lack of scales on them may be considered to be annoying. We don't get player-friendly maps, which is a bummer. The scan itself is generally nice, though the pages are slightly slanted. On a few pages in the upper right corner, the text could be a bit cleaner. Huge No-go: The pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes a serious comfort-detriment.

Edward Bolme's VirtualFront is per se an intriguing and well-wrought sourcebook, though one that has aged a bit in some aspects. That being said, the retro-charm fits Cybergeneration really well - we have a somewhat more naive and friendly conception of virtual reality, though one that is not bereft of knowledge of the more problematic aspects. The supplemental material is well-made and the setting-information's prose is superb. The new gangs have very different power-levels and appeals, at least for me - the networkers just feel dry to me, more like an NPC-organization than a PC-option, but that may be me.

In contrast to EcoFront's module, the adventure herein may lack the epic final scene and feel more mundane, but at the same time, it is, at least to me, the better of the two: It is a fun and evocative ride and one that emphasizes throughout its course the importance of engaging in roleplaying with the AI - this module can only be beaten by smarts and roleplaying...and I really enjoyed this aspect. The module features a great antagonist and has plenty of follow-up potential. All in all, I really enjoyed this sourcebook...though the lack of bookmarks for the electronic version really sucks - if you can, get print instead. In the end, my final verdict for the pdf, the only version I own, can only clock in at 4 stars - while a lot of this book's content is still phenomenal, the aged components and the lack of bookmarks do not leave me the choice of rating this higher. Still, I'd love to see a new VirtualFront, updated and expanded!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
VirtualFront
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Cyberpunk 2.0.2.0. The Second Edition, Version 2.01
by Mariano C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/12/2017 07:21:32

The printed version is way beyond my expectations, it feels almost like having one of the original copies printed in the 90s. The PDF is excelent as well. The page numbers match the index, it's OCRd so you can search and the overall quality of the scans is really good.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cyberpunk 2.0.2.0. The Second Edition, Version 2.01
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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 Customer Name Withheld [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:
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Cybergeneration: The 2nd Edition
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Deep Space
by Customer Name Withheld [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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Deep Space
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Mekton Zeta
by Customer Name Withheld [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.



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Mekton Zeta
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Mekton Zeta Plus
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/01/2016 14:40:38

A much appreciated expansion to the basic Mekton Z rules.



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Mekton Zeta Plus
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Cyberpunk 2.0.2.0. The Second Edition, Version 2.01
by Customer Name Withheld [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.



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[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.



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[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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