This is a first impression I originally wrote on Google+:
Bringing the chrome, 80s style
Presenting a first impression of Mirrorshades, a cyberpunk hack by Norbert G. Matausch of a hack (Cyber-Hacked by Mike Evans) of The Black Hack (by David Black)... which is a lightweight hack of old school D&D. This is already very zen.
Disclaimer: I'm not a frequent writer of reviews or impressions, not a journalist nor professional. I'm a gamer and DM. So this review will be very subjective. I write about what I see and how I understand it.
...This is your grave and your playground. And the sky above is the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.
I fucking love the intro to this one. It creates a very 80s cyberpunk vibe which is something I greatly appreciate.
Mirrorshades uses the engine of the Black Hack with additional rules for contacts, drugs, vehicles, cyberware and hacking. For those of you not knowing what the hell I'm talking about: The Black Hack is a very lightweight version of old school D&D that uses a roll-under mechanic (roll a D20 under a stat to succeed in a task). It borrows mechanics from 5th edition (Advantage/Disadvantage) and armor is handled as a form of daily use temporary hitpoints. The core mechanics are quite easy to learn and do not have any nasty surprises in the form of obscure special rules (I'm looking at you, Generic Crunchfest #4). Consumable equipment has a so-called usage die, which is rolled whenever a consumable item (like ammo) is used. On a 1 or 2 the die is decreased to the next lower die (i.e. d8 to d6). When the usage die reaches a d4 and a 1 or 2 is rolled the item is consumed and needs to be replaced. Nice system, I like it. Last but not least, the GM only rolls damage. All other rolls are rolled by the players.
Rulings for specific situations are always up to the GM and/or the players, so if you need (or want) rules for everything, you'll probably not like this. Role playing is encouraged to find solutions for these kinds of situations.
Right, back to the future...(heh)
Mirrorshades is set in the gritty cyberpunk future of 2020, where corporations practically pull all the strings and everything is very much fucked. Life is cheap, the drugs are cheaper and your implants could really use some polish...if you only had the cash.
The book starts with the aforementioned awesome intro, directly followed by the core rules (Mechanics, character creation, combat and contacts). Apart from the contacts there is no real difference to the Black Hack.
The core mechanic is present throughout the entire book, there are no special rules for specific situations, a fact that I'm quite fond of because it keeps the bookkeeping to a minimum.
Next, we have a chapter dealing with the creation of drugs, vehicles and cyberware, including some examples on how they affect the game.
Drugs: Contains creation tables for drugs and their (side)effects. Also has a table for what happens if you start playing mix-and-match in your happy fun time ("When these two babies meet in your bloodstream, you're gonna see some serious shit!" Or you could, like, die). I quite like the tables, they allow for some pretty cool stuff without constricting the GM or players in any way. Want a smokeable antibiotic that makes you a coward after putting you in coma? Can be done (I don't know why you'd want it, maybe healthy sleep just doesn't cut it any more. So pay up!).
Most drugs grant either a temporary bonus on attributes or Advantage. How the drugs actually work or how much they juice you up is up to the GM and the players. A drug that kills you should probably have some serious advantages, otherwise you could just shoot yourself instead, it's cheaper.
Vehicles: Has rules and price lists for car chases, upgrades, vehicle brands and drones. It's pretty much what it says on the tin.
Cyberware: What would cyberpunk be without cyberware? Apart from punk (shut up)? Probably boring. Or at least not as cool as HAVING ADDITIONAL SHOULDERS SO YOU CAN WIELD ALL THE GUNS!! Ahem. This chapter deals with the creation and effects of different classes of cybernetic implants. Creation is easy and straightforward: choose a class, pay the price, determine effects and pay some backalley sawbones to nail it in place.
Effects range from bonuses to stats to Advantage or special abilities. The price is the almighty dollar...and your immortal soul. Implanting cybertech costs you humanity(points) (similar to Shadowrun and Cyberpunk 2020), making you more and more machine-like until you are a slightly unstable psychopath with the durability of the Terminator and the cuddly demeanor of a deranged serial killer. As a GM, I find this extremely amusing. As with drugs and vehicles, the look and feel of cyberware is entirely up to the player and the GM.
Ok, whats next? Hacking. What sounds better? Sitting in my basement, slaving for days over stolen printouts and typing incomprehensible strings into a terminal to find a way to exploit a corporate system? Or standing in some rain slick back alley, my cyberdeck plugged into a hidden access port into the datacenter of GeneriCorp Inc., stealing their research, running through streams of neon, my chrome hands full of viral payloads, ready to seriously wreck their digital shit. And looking badass (in an 80s sort of way) while doing it? If your answer includes any mention of basements, fuck off.
This chapter covers mechanics for hacking the data fortresses of the corporate overlords that secretly rule the world (TM). The rules are again pretty straightforward: You need a cyberdeck and implants to connect yourself to the deck and explore cyberspace. There are rules for cyberspace combat where, instead of Strength and Dexterity, you use your Intelligence and Dexterity to attack and defend (WITH YOUR MIND). Then there are rules and prices for deck upgrades which grant bonuses to you or your decks abilities. The chapter also contains pretty cool mechanics for creating systems (data fortresses) on the fly by throwing a couple of dice on a sheet of paper to determine entry point, target, offensive/defensive capabilities and then connecting the nodes with a pen. It's similar to the village system of Lamentations of the Flame Princesses Scenic Dunnsmouth or city block creation in Vornheim. Love it.
Classes: Mirrorshades contains ten classes, covering everything from gun-wielding cyborgs to corporate executives to rock musicians. Attack damage and hit points are based on the chosen class which also grants some special abilities, equipment or cyberware.
The last three chapters are Equipment, Enemies and random tables for everything.
Equipment is a short chapter on equipment prices like guns, ammo and armor. Not much to say here, it's like one page.
Enemies is just that, a table containing stuff to shoot and their stats for shooting back.
Your world in tables is, well, a bunch of tables ranging from lists of names (like netrunner handles and street names) to tables for creating unique names (and brand. and type) for your favorite gun/drug/bar/cyberdeck/criminal enterprise. There's loads of cool stuff in here.
Mirrorshades looks solid, the system is easy and minimal (The Black Hack has like 20 pages, duh) and the layout is good. Tables and how to use them are easy to understand (I get quite annoyed when I open a book with loads of tables and the book just assumes that I know that you always roll a d8 for this or that. Hasn't happened in a while but still).
There is no fancy adventure creation stuff here, no background to the world (apart from the awesome intro). It is a set of rules for playing a rules-light cyberpunk game, nothing more, nothing less. And it is doing a pretty good job at it.
Your job is to create a world, let the corps fuck it over, paint it neon and hand out the aviator shades.