Hello Wildfire. I do hope you read these reviews and take heed of them, because the following are not only my personal opinions as a fan of CthulhuTech, but my professional opinions as a writer and game designer.
First of all let me say it was really hard to give this an in-betweener rating. My first impulse is to rate Good. I love CthulhuTech. I have loved it ever since I was first introduced to it many years ago, and I probably will continue to do so no matter how this project goes. But the game is not without its problems, and some of them are glaring. I'm going to address the negative first, then the positive so that we can end on a high note.
Need of a Third Party Editor
This can be expensive, but in regards to this book - and honestly, the books that came before it - the project is in desperate need of some professional editing. Not just for typos and paragraph layout (I understand this is not the final product), but the formatting of the book is all over the place. Even at the point of still being in beta, there should be some sort of framwork in place that helps the information flow naturally from one aspect to the other. The order of chapters should be consistent, and go in order with what the player needs to know from first to last thing.
As well as that, the professional language of the book slips a lot . One moment I am engaging in an intelligent descrpition of something, and the next I'm at a pub talking with my mates. It's great to try and have more of a casual relationship/connection with the reader, but there is a way to do that without sharing personal opinions, and a way to do it with impulse control.
I'm actually going to refer back to your original Core Rulebook for a good example of this, and no, don't duck and hide before hearing me out! Lads, your 'Let's Tslk Pronouns' info box. Now, CthulhuTech is clearly a world where gender and sexual diversity is abound. Those sorts of barriers from our current day societ don't matter anymore - you make that very obvious, especially with giving Nazzadi gender-neutral pronouns. This is all very progressive stuff, and it's lovely to see it implemented so effortlessly.
So why? Why would you put in that little info box strssing that you're only using male pronouns and basically, 'bad luck' to whoever doesn't like it because you 'can't please everyone'? Guys, you could have totally forgone that entirely personal-opinions-driven box and I wouldn't have batted an eyelash. I've been playing tabletop for years, the books tend to be written in male pronouns, it's a thing. It doesn't really bother me. I appreciate it when other games (like Pathfinder for instance) just switch between player pronouns seamlessly between chapters anc class descriptions, but I'm a big girl, I can go without. I can see what you might've been trying to do, with that info box, but in the end - and possibly due to the writing of it being unprofessional and very tunnel-visioned as well - it turned a non-issue into an issue. You brought politics to the table in an attempt to avoid politics. The irony is disappointing, no? In the end, it's just a bad design choice that could possibly damage the reach of your target audience. A good editor would have quietly omitted that little box of personal issues that someone just had to get into final print. You have beautiful representation in the books, guys. There's female vignettes, NPCs of all colours and shapes and genders. It's an inclusive world. You shot yourselves in the foot. I have spoken to you in messages before and I have no doubt you're good people who had the best intentions with some of that writing, but it doesn't always come across that way. Which is where editors are great!
(on that note, someone who reviewed before me made a note that the 'chinadoll' reference to albino people is terrible. This is actually okay. In the book it's stated that white Nazzadi do not like being called it. It's racial slang and it's given across as such. You're supposed to be offended. This is worldbuilding, and in case you haven't noticed, CTech is not a nice place. It has nothing to do with the creators being insensitive.)
TL;DR a third party editor/revisionist is worth the money. If you even wanted to crowdfund it, I know I would sink sooo much money I don't have into helping you release a truly top-notch and professional book.
Need of Updated Art / Need of designer
And I'm not just saying this because I want to provide art for the book, haha. Not all, but A lot of the art is dated, stretched, pixelated, and of low resolution. I'm not sure if what you've got there is just placeholder for the final version of the book - but I've seen this before. That poor hooman character art, all stretched and chopped up. It hurt to see. This is your baby, guys! Take some pride in its presentation. Which Im' sure oyu do, don't get me wrong; but there are some visual design choices/mistakes/rushed-bits that make my heart hurt.
Font - the font is really difficult to read in places. Yes, it looks cool! But so difficult to read. At some point you've got to pause and go off to find something that still looks cool, but that we don't have to squint at to
The book could really benefit from a once-over by a professional designer. Again I have no doubt you're doing everything you can to do right by your product, and I understand it's a side project that you obviously don't want to spend and arm and a leg on. Again, this is why a crowdfund would be a good idea to scrape in some extra funds to be able to afford these sort of things. You've struck out on your own without appealing to any of the big tabletop publishers, and that's admirable - though the product is suffering a little from corners that have been cut due to lack of funds. When I was younger, I was always surprised at how few people knew about the game - I thought it was the best thing since sliced bread! As an adult (I think?) with experience in game industries now, I see where design and marketting fell through and wasn't as air-tight as it could have been.
TL;DR - get designer if you can, update the art, go for different more readable fonts.
NOTE: Myself and a friend who are currently running a game togetherwork in design. We would be absolutely delighted to give some free design advice, as we love this setting very much. I won't include any in this review other than what I've already said because I think it'd be rude to do so without it being asked first. :)
GOOD NEWS TIME~
- The system is looking a little more friendlier. I haven't looked into it in too much depth because my main concern is the design, the writing and the lore. But I recall the friend who introduced me to CTech running a holiday game a few years ago that was a little wince-worthy with some of the mechanics we had to deal with. I'd recommend doing a call for anyone who wants to help test the systems and running some one-shot games online with pre-prepared characters sheets. You can do this on skype, or Raid-type mediums, and hold a Q&A after!
- More background information on the setting, on the races, on the lore. My sweet, sweet Odin, it's beautiful. Keep it coming. Gobbling up this extra information in your Betahas made me fall in love with the world all over again.
- You're doing really well handling delicate topics. Again, this isn't a nice place, the Strange Aeon. You know it, I know it. It's based on Lovecraft (amongst other things), it was always going to have heavy themes and such. Even with that knowledge though, there is a right and a wrong way to get across the information that the GM and players need to know. You manage to do this with admirable finesse, both in explaining the system and stories and in the vignettes. Don't lose that! It's so important, and especially as a female fan of the game it comes very much appreciated. A lot of the critisism I've seen so far of people not liking how topics were handled, seems to be of the opinion that they shouldn't be there at all. I'm not sure these people understand the world with which they are dealing.
- It was touched on briefly in the book, though mostly in regards to new character sheets and systems - as these new books will be used in conjunction with the Core book (that's what I understood at least, as there's still a lot of information missing), there is a risk of cross-contamination of new and old information becoming quite confusing. How do you plan to combat this? Or is this book, The Shadow War, and the upcoming one concerning Engels and Mech supposed to be used without need for the original core rulebook?
That's all I have for now. Again, thanks so much for returning to this world, and I look forward to the future release of this book and the other. I think one has to be able to give critisism to something they like as much as something they do not, so please understand even with my critisisms that I am still behind CTech and its team 100%. Please don't hesitate to respond to me here if you have any answers or queries for my feedback.