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Chrome Compilation: Cyberpunk Style Guides #1 & #2
Publisher: R. Talsorian Games Inc.
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/20/2013 20:22:36
Chrome Compilation of Chrome Books 1 and 2, originally published in 1991 and 1992 respectively, wear their era of origin heavily. Chrome Book 1 is especially heavy with nostalgia and unintentional irony with faxes, wired modems and 80s fashion figuring heavily, the weapons and vehicles being a mix of (then) cutting edge modern and attempts at extrapolation. However, some of the cyberware (including the decentralized heart, one of my favorites) and chipware are still solid conceptually and the services section is full of interesting ideas. Chrome Book 2 is better at not being locked into its era of being made, well except for the computers. There are useful things to adapt for any cyberpunk setting including full conversion cyborgs, exotic body-shaping and crazy weapons. Most of the contents of these books are just good fodder for products and things for a near future setting, the rules are a bit more iffy.

Disclosure: As a featured reviewer for RPGNow/DriveThroughRPG, I received my copy of this product for free from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Note: Read more reviews and other gaming articles at my journal https://seaofstarsrpg.wordpress.com/

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Chrome Compilation: Cyberpunk Style Guides #1 & #2
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Chrome Compilation: Cyberpunk Style Guides #3 & #4
Publisher: R. Talsorian Games Inc.
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/20/2013 20:20:50
Chrome Compilation (2) of Chrome Books 3 and 4, first published in 1994 and 1996 respectively are more successful in being still felling like things from the potential futures also, no weapons in these books just gear and reference. Book 3 succeeds in being more forward looking even the computers are not so wince inducing, but the sections on full conversion ‘borgs and powered armor both require other books for full rules (Chrome Book 2 and Maximum Metal respectively). But the general tech items, cyberware, cyberpets (enhanced animals), robots and WADs (Working Assistant Droids built off the powered armor rules), are all very evocative and useful. Book 4 is good on cyberware but really shines on biotech, the vehicles are interesting though more illustrations would have been welcome. The fashion section is a little dated but still so much fun to read and has some useful note on clothes and the character. These are the best of the Chrome Book line, benefitting for the experience acquired on the first two and full of valuable inspiration for any cyberpunk styled game.

Disclosure: As a featured reviewer for RPGNow/DriveThroughRPG, I received my copy of this product for free from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Note: Read more reviews and other gaming articles at my journal https://seaofstarsrpg.wordpress.com/

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Chrome Compilation: Cyberpunk Style Guides #3 & #4
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Shadowrun: Dirty Tricks
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/16/2013 16:50:35
Dirty Tricks provides information about politics in the world of Shadowrun, which is a vicious and dangerous game even more so then today. It is a useful reference for games masters who want to mix politics with their games or just understand the way such things work in the Sixth World

Shadowrun: Dirty Tricks, a Deep Shadows Sourcebook, begins with the usual short piece of fiction, next it moves into a short primer on politics, focusing on what makes voter tick and what tricks are used to manipulate them. There is some good information here, mostly using mid to late 20th century examples. It then moves onto scandals, executive entertainment (escort services), and taking the bullet (bodyguards and security). These sections contain good general information on politics and are a useful reference for both the GM and players.

After laying the groundwork for political games (in both sense of the word) it moves on to various political hot spots:
• Seattle, at the exact point that Proposition 23 is going to the vote . . . and its immediate after effects. It’s a good time in old Seattle, oh, yes.
• UCAS, an overview of the politics including the upcoming presidential election, senatorial races and various local flashpoints. This provides good adventure seeds and some additional background on the hot issues in UCAS politics (and how they affect runners) is provided at the end of the section.
• The South, mostly about the CAS but also some information of Aztlan and Pueblo, there have been big changes in that region which have opened up jobs for shadowrunners.
• Tsimshian, politics at the edge of the NAN, a small nation and in rough shape -and thus open to Shadowrunners- but it gives a window into some of the wider debates as well.
• United Kingdom, the Mother of Parliaments is not in the best of shape, new politics, new coalitions. This section is very much an overview of the current situation in the UK with a few hints towards potential jobs.

Next, the Power Brokers section gives some details on the secret societies and individuals who shape politics from behind the scenes and what their goals are, probably. Not sold on conspiracies myself, but they do make good gaming fodder.

Lastly, Game Information, a slim six pages of how to apply the information in the book and at least two plots hooks (but not more than four) for each section of the book.

If a GM wants to bring politics to the front and center of their Shadowrun campaign, this is the book for you, otherwise, it is a useful reference as to how politics work in the former US parts North America (with some new info on Tsimshian and the UK). Though, oddly, the California Free State is only mentioned obliquely, you would think that the UCAS and CAS would have a little more interest in it.

Disclosure: As a featured reviewer for RPGNow/DriveThroughRPG, I received my copy of this product for free from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Note: Read more reviews and other gaming articles at my journal https://seaofstarsrpg.wordpress.com/

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: Dirty Tricks
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Shadowrun: Mission: 04-10: Romero and Juliette
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/21/2013 14:03:57
Shadowrun Missions: Romero and Juliette (04-10), part of the Artifacts arc of adventures and is optimized as a Halloween adventure (with a nice sidebar discussing the moods it can be played in). Amusingly, Dark Angel’s music gets a sidebar in the initial scene of the adventure and it ties back to an earlier mission (2010-04 Humanitarian Aid) which could be fun for groups who have played through that. It does assume that the GM will have access to several of the Shadowrun source books (Street Magic is especially important) to run this adventure. It is ideal for anyone who ever wanted to include a zombie uprising in Shadowrun, though some of the parts of the adventure do not interlock as cleanly as I would like.

SM: Romero and Juliette seems like it should be a perfect Halloween adventure for an experienced team of characters, though groups that have been playing through the Artifacts track of the Shadowrun mission will obviously get more out of it. However, unfortunately, there is no star-crossed romance subplot, as the title would imply (it is instead a reference to the famous director of zombie films, I imagine).

Disclosure: As a featured reviewer for RPGNow/DriveThroughRPG, I received my copy of this product for free from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Note: Read more reviews and other gaming articles at my journal https://seaofstarsrpg.wordpress.com/

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: Mission: 04-10: Romero and Juliette
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Shadowrun: Dark Angel
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/21/2013 14:00:14
Dark Angel, from 1993 (when Shadowrun was moving from 1st to 2nd edition), has the characters hired to find out what happened to an up and coming rocker (the Dark Angel of the title) and get the rights to his music back. Of course, it is not a simple task, soon bringing the characters into conflict with the Yakuza. As an early scenario, it is fairly rigidly structured but it was trying to be more flexible using a decision-tree format but it still strikes me as heavily structured and tends to combat, but not a bad adventure all the same especially if you want to get your group involved in Yakuza politics.

Though, as I have said before in my other reviews of the older adventures, I think Catalyst missed a beat by not providing a conversion document to a more modern version of the Shadowrun rules set.

Disclosure: As a featured reviewer for RPGNow/DriveThroughRPG, I received my copy of this product for free from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Note: Read more reviews and other gaming articles at my journal https://seaofstarsrpg.wordpress.com/

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: Dark Angel
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Shadowrun: Storm Front
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/26/2013 22:21:52
Shadowrun: Storm Front provides a bridge from the end of the 4th edition storyline to the new world of Shadowrun, 5th edition. It does so in some fairly spectacular ways, making the world of 2074 a brave new one . . . But unless you are a huge metaplot junkie, your can probably glean what your need to run a game from the fifth edition core book along and be happy

Storm Front is a source book for Shadowrun, it moves the Sixth World’s time line forward and with it, many of the metaplots, some drawing to a close, others continue to accelerate laying the groundwork for the brave new world of Shadowrun, fifth edition.

Big things resolve in the Aztlan-Amazonian War (spoiler: Aztlan wins) and what with the Dragon Civil War moving along, the setting loses two great dragons, one through a massive amount of raw military might, the other though dragon on dragon violence. The world is changing and probably not for the better especially given the weird things happening in orbit and further afield.

Denver is in chaos but the Japancorps are pulling back together, Ares has hit a rough patch and the matrix is adjusting to closer (read corporate) oversight. Vampires and ghouls are getting hungrier, while the Tir is calming down, and Mayor Brackhaven of Seattle may finally be falling from power.

While most of the book is time line and metaplot advancement, there are some game rules and statistics for major characters in the back along for some scenario seeds. But a lot of important information that is mentioned in the main body, such as some actual information the chemical anti-dragon weapon that has weird effects on people as well, or suggestion to how to adjudicate the changes to the infected.

Overall, a useful book for those who enjoy seeing how the Sixth World evolves but it is of more limited value to those who are not avid followers of the metaplot.

Disclosure: As a featured reviewer for RPGNow/DriveThroughRPG, I received my copy of this product for free from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Note: Read more reviews and other gaming articles at my journal https://seaofstarsrpg.wordpress.com/

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: Storm Front
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Shadowrun: Fifth Edition Core Rulebook
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/22/2013 06:58:41
Shadowrun Core Rulebook, Fifth Edition, which is the newest version of that classic game system. Like all new editions it has changes, some which are improvements and others which may or may not be but without a doubt it is a well laid out and pretty to look at. If you are a fan of Shadowrun, it is definitely worth taking a look at the latest version of the core rules.

Catalyst Labs has released the fifth edition of the Shadowrun core rules, to coincide with the Year of Shadowrun, and it is a beautiful presentation, nearly five hundred, full color pages. It covers all you would expect, and all you need to start, as far as gaming in the Sixth World is concerned. The basic system, a dice pool system, works well and the rules show how to use it very clearly. The major change from the last edition is the introduction of ‘limits’ usually based on the characters’ statistics and divided into physical, mental and social (with some exceptions we will look at in a moment) which are tied to various skills and limit the maximum successes a character can achieve. Honestly, not sold on the limit system though it can be overcome by use of edge, a special statistic that represents a character luck and ability to overcome trouble, but still not convinced that it adds anything beyond extra complexity to the system.

The character creation system returns to the priority system where you choose a set of priorities for you character (species, skills, statistics, resources and magic) and those give you the pieces needed to assemble your character . . . but some of the choices then include a nested set of sub-choices and you are given a block of points, which you can add to by taking flaws, to customize your characters. The advantage of a priority system over a point system, in theory, is that it makes choices clear. This system seems to me to combines the worst aspects of both, that priority systems are naturally more limited and deny flexibility with the point tracking and bonus seeking of a point-based system. There are a set of sixteen pre-built archetypes, so you can pick up play directly (though it would have been nice if the priorities used to built them were noted so you would have an idea of what a particular set of build choices lead to).

Skills are nicely presented though, oddly, it does not mention under gymnastic that it is the skill used for dodging in combat. Combat has been made more interactive, at a slight increase of complexity for the initiative system, and more deadly than 4th edition both of which strike me as positive changes. Weapons have an accuracy statistic that determine their success limit, rather than using the character’s physical limit, and even melee weapons have an accuracy statistic which seems a bit strange to me. Vehicle combat gets its own section and it looks as though it is properly integrated with the rest of the combat system now.

As it is a new edition, the Matrix and hacking rules have been revised again. They seem to be much clearer now and the technomancer rules are properly integrated into the system, the greater importance of the Global Overwatch Division in matrix security. Riggers are (for the first time) properly included in the core rule book with rules that dovetail nicely with the vehicle combat rules (as they need to).

As for the Matrix, so for Magic, the rules are cleaned up with enchanting and alchemy enhanced and a new type of magician (at least to me), the Mystic Adept who combines adept abilities with the full range of magic (except for astral projection) which strikes me as quite powerful. Overall, the magic system looks clean and as easy to use as it is likely to get for Shadowrun.

The Game Mastering advice is quite good, especially about discussing with a group what everyone wants out of a campaign. Good advice on structuring games especially for the traditional shadowrun (and a set of random tables for inspiration), using non-player characters, appropriate threats and rewards is presented. Contacts are further detailed and rules for favors are systematized. Creatures, toxins and drugs round out the game master’s section.

The book ends with a list of useful gear ranging from weapons to vehicles, cyberware to surveillance equipment. Certainly everything needed for initial forays in the world of 2075. Lastly there are a selection of full color art ‘plates’ including covers from all of the previous editions of Shadowrun. These are quite nice to look at.

While I am not thrilled by the general limit system, though I like their application in spellcasting and the matrix system, and the return to the priority system overall it is a solid edition of Shadowrun and if you are a fan of the setting, it is well worth taking a look at.

Disclosure: As a featured reviewer for RPGNow/DriveThroughRPG, I received my copy of this product for free from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Note: Read more reviews and other gaming articles at my journal https://seaofstarsrpg.wordpress.com/

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: Fifth Edition Core Rulebook
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The Malefactor Base Class
Publisher: Total Party Kill Games
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/04/2013 22:24:12
The Malefactor, a new base class, by Total Party Kill Games is built around an interesting idea, a person who is a nexus of ill-fortune and can inflict it upon others. A very cleverly designed class with almost too much mechanical complexity, as its primary abilities cause a lot of tracking of effects, but if you are up to that, it should be a fun class to play and a challenging opponent to encounter. The inclusion of HeroLab files for the Malefactor as part of this product increases its usability for those who own that handy program.

Malefactors are the fortunate unfortunate few, cursed with a malicious spirit called a Yla, the Malefactor has learned to work with it to direct its harm to others in a (mostly) controlled fashion. The Malefactor is a midrange combatant outside their powers with access to a decent range of both weapons and armor and a good selection of skills (with sufficient skill points to be competent in several) for further flexibility.

But the main strength of the Malefactor is the ability to call down minor curses (called maledictions) on their opponents, however, this usually require them to get in close (20' range until 8th level, increasing after 8th level) so their combat skills will be needed. Their options and power of the maledictions increase as the Malefactor gains levels. They also have an interesting sideline in curse breaking (which is the focus of one of the archetype presented for the class).

Five archetypes, favor class bonuses by race and nine new feats round out the class. An example Malefactor (Talitha Shadowtongue, the Tiefling on the cover) is presented at 11th level so that one can see what a powerful Malefactor can do. The only thing missing is a class oriented magic item or two to really complete the package but overall, a very solid class.

Disclosure: As a featured reviewer for RPGNow/DriveThroughRPG, I received my copy of this product for free from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Note: Read more reviews and other gaming articles at my journal https://seaofstarsrpg.wordpress.com/

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Malefactor Base Class
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Call to Arms: Archer's Arsenal
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/22/2013 15:57:41
Call to Arms: Archer’s Arsenal by Fat Goblin’s Games is a collection of bows, crossbows, arrows and accessories both mundane and magical. I like that each item has a short description though some of the mundane items (foot bow and drum-fed repeating crossbow, for example) are verging on silly. Overall, the items are useful and interesting mechanically but some abilities (such as the crossbow of inevitability) could have been a new weapon quality, the mundane options for arrows (such as broad-headed) should have damage changes be based off the arrow’s size otherwise small sized archers can really take advantage of them. Overall, however, this product has many useful tools here for archers and crossbow users.

Disclosure: As a featured reviewer for RPGNow/DriveThroughRPG, I received my copy of this product for free from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Note: Read more reviews and other gaming articles at my journal https://seaofstarsrpg.wordpress.com/

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Call to Arms: Archer's Arsenal
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Forager's Guild: An Organization
Publisher: Asparagus Jumpsuit
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/22/2013 15:55:02
The Forager’s Guild for Pathfinder by Asparagus Jumpsuit is a short document presenting an “adventurer’s guild” that can be easily adapted for most campaigns, proving a base of operations, resources and training and a clearing house for adventure. Three of the upper level members of the guild are detailed for use as advisors, trainers and generally useful people as are a squad of bugbears converted to good who act as agents for the guild. Some fun, and very classic, things to play around with here, worth your time to look at if such a group would have a place in your campaign.

Disclosure: As a featured reviewer for RPGNow/DriveThroughRPG, I received my copy of this product for free from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Note: Read more reviews and other gaming articles at my journal https://seaofstarsrpg.wordpress.com/

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Forager's Guild: An Organization
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Elemental Builder for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game
Publisher: Asparagus Jumpsuit
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/22/2013 15:54:07
Elemental Builder for Pathfinder by Asparagus Jumpsuit is a short document presenting a simple system for constructing elementals (using a bacon elemental as an example!). While a useful resource, it would have been helped by a step by step walkthrough of elemental building and maybe a few fully statted example elementals. Berin Kinsman is a creative fellow and I would have liked to have seen him display it a bit further with this product.

Disclosure: As a featured reviewer for RPGNow/DriveThroughRPG, I received my copy of this product for free from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Note: Read more reviews and other gaming articles at my journal https://seaofstarsrpg.wordpress.com/

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Elemental Builder for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game
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Spells of the Animal Kingdom
Publisher: Skortched Urf' Studios
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/22/2013 15:52:21
Spells of the Animal Kingdom by Otherverse Games is a collection of animal-themed spells, building from spells such as Bull’s Strength and the other animal-named enhancing spells. There are twenty-five new spells here (not counting the mass versions of the spells) divided up into minor (seven spells of 2nd level or below), average (twelve spells of 2nd level) and major (six spells of 3rd level or higher). Good things about these spells: quite a few of them are built around interesting non-combat applications and several of the combat oriented ones have interesting, if narrow, applications (Mongoose’s Alacrity will be prized by any dragon or snake hunter for instance, or Horse’s Swishing Tail which is an anti-swarm effect). Bad things: Several are missing the material component needed, others seem either too weak or too strong for their level, Bear’s Slumber is -inadvertently- a stunningly effective combat spell and Rabbit’s Fecundity just seems problematic. Still, there is a lot of inspiration here if you wish to play around with animal-themed magic just consider the effect of each spell carefully before allowing it into your campaign.

Disclosure: As a featured reviewer for RPGNow/DriveThroughRPG, I received my copy of this product for free from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Note: Read more reviews and other gaming articles at my journal https://seaofstarsrpg.wordpress.com/

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Spells of the Animal Kingdom
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Shadowrun: The Way of the Samurai
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/09/2013 16:13:17
The Way of the Samurai, while I was not overly thrilled with the in game universe framework for this, the mechanics are all solid. With new advantages (available only to the cybered), cybernetic suites designed for street samurai, and some new cyberware (revamping the old booster reflexes and new arm blades) and the archetypes -one for each race using the rules included here- are good and useful, even if they use art recycled from the first edition, which I found nostalgic more than anything else, though I miss the original character write up for the Ork street sam.

Disclosure: As a featured reviewer for RPGNow/DriveThroughRPG, I received my copy of this product for free from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Note: Read more reviews and other gaming articles at my journal https://seaofstarsrpg.wordpress.com/

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: The Way of the Samurai
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Shadowrun: Sprawl Sites: North America
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/09/2013 16:12:35
Sprawl Sites: North America, is a collection of places each described with a color map in two versions (one with numbered areas for the GM and one without for the players). Each location has a short description keyed to the map, a set of adventure seeds and a piece of a linked adventure that visits all of the locations. Quite a useful resource if you are a fan of maps, the adventure seeds are mostly interesting and enough to inspire a run as needed. Though a brief notation on the matrix security for each of the locations would have been a useful addition to the descriptions provided.

Disclosure: As a featured reviewer for RPGNow/DriveThroughRPG, I received my copy of this product for free from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Note: Read more reviews and other gaming articles at my journal https://seaofstarsrpg.wordpress.com/

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: Sprawl Sites: North America
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Shadowrun: The Land of Promise
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/09/2013 16:05:48
Land of Promise, updating information on the elven nation of Tir Tairngire to the current era of Shadowrun. Most of the product is in setting discussion of the Tir and its current situation, heavy on politics and attitudes light on actual data, the original Tir Tairngire book would almost seem needed to be able to use this to present the Tir as part of a campaign. The adventure seeds are uninspired but the character trove (write ups of generic NPCs) which include a variety of gang members as well as Tir police could be quite useful.

Disclosure: As a featured reviewer for RPGNow/DriveThroughRPG, I received my copy of this product for free from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Note: Read more reviews and other gaming articles at my journal https://seaofstarsrpg.wordpress.com/

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: The Land of Promise
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