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Mechanical Dream: Mechanical Book
by Conan M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/21/2013 14:23:25

Innovation – it’s one of those holy grails that nearly every game designer strives for. Something that gamers often look for in a new game that promises that ”this one is different from all the others…” Now the last few months have seen quite a few games released that have gunned for the moniker of innovative – but few have even come close to Mechanical Dream. This game will change the way you view setting and system design. Appearance wise, Mechanical Dream is gorgeous. The book has two covers – one side of the book is the Dream Aspect – setting material. This contains a beautifully illustrated colour section that covers the ten primary races within the game. Flip the book over and you’ll find another cover. This is the Mechanical Aspect – which details the game’s rules as well as provides some clarification of certain elements mentioned on the Dream side.

MD’s artwork is simply the best I have ever seen in a roleplaying supplement. Unfortunately there are some moments where the print has caused the image to be too dark – but I suspect that future products will take care of this problem. The artwork remains evocative and consistent throughout the book and really helps you get a grasp on what this game’s world is truly like.

The System

Mechanical Dream manages to create a vivid and truly original world – filled with adventure; political intrigue and plenty of plot hooks. Characters can be what are known as Echoes – the settings “hero-types” who are pretty toned down next to Exalted or AGONE’s equilvalents, at least initially – and character creation manages to be a refreshing mix of point expenditure and random attribute generation. Essentially, characters spend points on deciding what dice rolling method they desire to generate their stats. Combat is fast and brutal – drawing upon several game systems to create a unique and exciting system of its own. Essentially all characters have a Combat Dice Pool. This dictates the maximum number of dice that a character can roll within one combat round. Players then allocate these points into certain skills – up to their maximum CP before they roll initiative. It sounds complicated, but in practice my players found it to work like a charm and it took next to no time to learn the various intricacies of the rules. Given that at the cost of one “CP” a character can change an action after initiative has been rolled, this system makes combat a lot more tactical and intelligent. Yet it manages to remain faster than an average d20 combat session – which is quite an achievement.

This degree of flexibility seems to be the key theme to the game’s systems. Most rules are based around a simple “defeat the difficulty” rule – yet it has a particularly wide scope at the same time. Attributes will dictate which die-type the PC rolls (d4, d6, d8, d10 or d12) and then the skill is used to decide how many dice to roll. There are some fantastic mental state rules – if a character takes a particularly vicious hit during combat there is a chance that they will also be mentally damaged as well, which can sometimes require the aid of a psychologist to heal and in other cases may never heal!

Too perfect to be true?

There is a downside to all of this. The translation and errata. Although Mechanical Dream is written in English, it is clear that this is the author’s second language. The book is peppered with spelling mistakes and odd sentence structures that cause you to re-read them time and again. Oddly – this isn’t as much of a hindrance as it may seem. Most of the time it’s just amusing to spot these. They certainly don’t detract from the enjoyment of the book – and never are they so bad as to be unintelligible. If there is one true gripe I have with this game – it’s the number of rules contradictions. Given that this is the very first edition and publication, I can be somewhat lenient. The rules are not impossible to understand – most of it is there, just not always in the best place for ease of reference. An index would have benefited this book as well as a glossary in the center. Some of the rules appear to have been re-written as the book was being prepared and so there are cases where a rule is mentioned, but then shown to be redundant by the end of the book. Again, these are very rare – but could have afforded with not being there.

Summary

BUY MECHANICAL DREAM!!! To put it simply, no roleplayer should go without having at least perused this book. Very few products have caused me to want to drop everything I’m doing to run a game, but this one did. Despite the editorial gaffs – which I have been informed are being fixed now – this is just the most innovative, original, exciting and evocative game on the market. It flies in the face of the GNS argument by succeeding to be all three at once – the rules are realistic, flexible and involving while never once hindering the narrative flow of a game. The setting is pure genius with the promise of a metaplot that doesn’t sideline the players nor does it control them – being completely within the background of the setting it helps to give the game a narrative landscape for the players to explore at their leisure. At a time where many roleplaying publishing houses are being too scared to try anything new, Steamlogic has shown true bravery by making this their first project and I’d have to say that they have succeeded. No roleplayer should be without this one.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mechanical Dream: Mechanical Book
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Mechanical Dream: Dream Book
by Conan M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/21/2013 14:19:13

Innovation – it’s one of those holy grails that nearly every game designer strives for. Something that gamers often look for in a new game that promises that ”this one is different from all the others…” Now the last few months have seen quite a few games released that have gunned for the moniker of innovative – but few have even come close to Mechanical Dream. This game will change the way you view setting and system design. Appearance wise, Mechanical Dream is gorgeous. The book has two covers – one side of the book is the Dream Aspect – setting material. This contains a beautifully illustrated colour section that covers the ten primary races within the game. Flip the book over and you’ll find another cover. This is the Mechanical Aspect – which details the game’s rules as well as provides some clarification of certain elements mentioned on the Dream side.

MD’s artwork is simply the best I have ever seen in a roleplaying supplement. Unfortunately there are some moments where the print has caused the image to be too dark – but I suspect that future products will take care of this problem. The artwork remains evocative and consistent throughout the book and really helps you get a grasp on what this game’s world is truly like.

A world of it’s own

Quite simply, not since Blue Planet and Tribe 8 has a game shown such an in depth and purely alien world. Mechanical Dream is set on the world of Naakinis – a planet of unmentioned size – which is covered by an ethereal black wall called the Sofe. Game itself takes place within a circle of light upon the planet’s surface that measures 30,000 miles in diameter. This area of land is called Kaïnas and is lit from above not by a sun, but by an oscillating blue light called the Pendulum – after its nature of swinging back and forth across the sky. Ten races call Kaïnas their home. The peaceful, amphibian Emovan; The Vegetal Frilin – and ancient race of plant-like people; The bitter and cynical Gnath; The loving and adaptable Inaïs; The self-sacrificing yet graceful Nayans; The strange and enigmatic Odwoanes (whose behaviour resembles biomechanical Ewoks, except sometimes at night they will go into murderous rages); The silent invaders from the Sofe – the Soleks; the Genetically engineered Volkoï; the nomadic Yakis and finally the hostile Zïn – a race that is capable of shifting into monstrous beasts from a world that doesn’t even exist.

These races work together for survival, as the native life forms of Naakinis tend to be somewhat hostile and very much bigger than they are. The main rulebook predominately details the key nation within the setting – The Core. Ruled over by a powerful being known as The Core Himself, The Core is undergoing an industrial revolution. This allows the game to have a unique mix of genres. Within the one game setting players can come across medieval villages, 1800s style industrialism and even cyberpunk style megacorporations. It’s all here and it manages to be consistent within the setting.

Unfortunately for the Core – and all of Kaïnas – there are two key hindrances to expansion. One is the Dream. Whenever night falls – i.e. the pendulum moves away from the area of Kaïnas – the Dream seeps in and destabilizes Reality. This in turn causes unnatural beasts to wander the streets and sometimes even makes the landscape come alive and try to devour any that encounter it.

The other little problem is Orpee. All life in Kaïnas requires an energy/particle called eflow. The only way that the sentient races can intake eflow is through the consumption of a fruit known as Orpee – which grows deep within the bowels of the planet. The only sources of Orpee are the Inaïs…

Too perfect to be true?

There is a downside to all of this. The translation and errata. Although Mechanical Dream is written in English, it is clear that this is the author’s second language. The book is peppered with spelling mistakes and odd sentence structures that cause you to re-read them time and again. Oddly – this isn’t as much of a hindrance as it may seem. Most of the time it’s just amusing to spot these. They certainly don’t detract from the enjoyment of the book – and never are they so bad as to be unintelligible. If there is one true gripe I have with this game – it’s the number of rules contradictions. Given that this is the very first edition and publication, I can be somewhat lenient. The rules are not impossible to understand – most of it is there, just not always in the best place for ease of reference. An index would have benefited this book as well as a glossary in the center. Some of the rules appear to have been re-written as the book was being prepared and so there are cases where a rule is mentioned, but then shown to be redundant by the end of the book. Again, these are very rare – but could have afforded with not being there.

Summary

BUY MECHANICAL DREAM!!! To put it simply, no roleplayer should go without having at least perused this book. Very few products have caused me to want to drop everything I’m doing to run a game, but this one did. Despite the editorial gaffs – which I have been informed are being fixed now – this is just the most innovative, original, exciting and evocative game on the market. It flies in the face of the GNS argument by succeeding to be all three at once – the rules are realistic, flexible and involving while never once hindering the narrative flow of a game. The setting is pure genius with the promise of a metaplot that doesn’t sideline the players nor does it control them – being completely within the background of the setting it helps to give the game a narrative landscape for the players to explore at their leisure. At a time where many roleplaying publishing houses are being too scared to try anything new, Steamlogic has shown true bravery by making this their first project and I’d have to say that they have succeeded. No roleplayer should be without this one.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mechanical Dream: Dream Book
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Mechanical Dream: Dream Book
by Luke W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/21/2013 14:13:04

PART 1 of RPG.net review, originally posted on RPG.net here: http://www.rpg.net/news+reviews/reviews/rev_6172.html

INTRODUCTION

Mechanical Dream is the most unusual and innovative fantasy RPG setting I have ever seen. The design goal of Mechanical Dream appears to be to create a truly fantastical world. Unlike many fantasy settings it re-examines the fundamentals of the world such as psychics and the nature of reality as well as social interaction and needs.

Mechanical Dream achieves its goal. The world presented is incredibly imaginative. Every section of the book drip with otherworldliness. Steam Logic does a great job in presenting the world in great detail by using not only text but also pictures and layout. They have thought about every aspect before adding it. Places, flora, fauna, equipment, races and jobs in Mechanical Dream are each smoothly incorporated into the setting.

The result strangely enough is a setting that feels more like an alternate reality than something so bizarre that it can’t be understood. The issues were understandable as many plague our lives in the real world. It is not a medieval Europe or Oriental setting with magic slapped on but something altogether different yet disturbingly familiar.

SteamLogic describe it as a Dark Industrial Fantasy RPG. However a three-word description cannot give a game of this depth and breadth justice. If I were to pick one thing that seems closest in feel it would be the Playstation game Abe’s Oddworld. For more I recommend you check out the SteamLogic site at www.steamlogic.com where there are about 60 pages of the book available for download.

MD supports a number of extremely varied playing styles including Cyberpunk style shadowrunning, epic high adventure, political/industrial intrigue, horror, wilderness adventuring and exploring, and thoughtful philosophical, psychological or sociological games.

SETTING

The world of Mechanical Dream is an alien fantasy world. The world is split between two “ecosystems” called Naakinis and Kainas.

Naakinis’ scale is gigantic and presented with the awe, majesty and danger of our own Jurassic era. The trees are miles high, the seas are massive underground oceans and the inhabitants are huge creatures. Spiritually, the Naakinis is thought to be a living entity very much like our own Gaia.

Over time another ecosystem called Kainas developed overlapping Naakinis. Kainas is what we would consider to be a normal sized world (it compares to the PCs as our world does to us). The game focuses on the inhabitants of Kainas.

The inhabitants of Kainas try and live in harmony with Naakinis. However, the over powering presence of Naakinis can not be denied. The inhabitants of Kainas suffer from the fear and alienation of living in a world that they are native to. The inhabitants of Kainas deal with this fear and alienation by trying to ignore Naakinis. Over many centuries this became a drive to conquer Naakinis and build a truly Kainas world.

This drive is epitomised by a political movement, called the Core. Though the Core gives recognition to Naakinis, it promotes social stability, regularity, industry and indoctrination to put Naakinis out of minds eye. The Core builds massive cities on the massive Naakinis trees, builds safe transport and enormous walls.

The other important aspects of the setting include the Dream, Orpee and Echoes.

The sun in MD travels back and forth across the sky like a pendulum. It is day for 20 hours and night for 10 hours. At night the world takes on a different character where Dream comes alive. In the cities of the Core this can mean unimaginable horrors come to life. Nothing is as it seems. Like Naakinis it terrorises the Kainas inhabitants and forces them to create more security, bigger cities and taller walls.

Orpee is a fruit that contains e-flow that is the life force or drug of every inhabitant of Kainas. It must be eaten every five days or else a painful death ensues. This fruit is the focus of everyone’s ambitions. Most people work to gain just enough Orpee to live.

Echoes are people with a special destiny. The PCs are normally Echoes and ten different types of Echoes are presented in the book. Echoes are people who are destined to be different. For what purpose no one really knows. They are capable of amazing feats. These start off being very subtle but as the Echo grows so does their power. Many see the Echoes as the champions of Naakinis born of Kainas, destined to restore balance between the two ecosystems.

STYLE

MD is visually an impressive book. All aspects of the style of the book work together to convey a consistent feel of the setting.

Presentation – It’s a 368 page sturdy hardback. The book is unusually split in half. There is a Dream Side with the setting and a Mechanical Side with the rules. The two sides are back to back so both have their own beautiful cover that reflects the Side of the book they relate to. This makes it easy to work out which Side of the book you are on as the other half will be upside down. There is also 30 page colour section that covers the 10 Kainas races.

Layout – The layout of the book is impressive and helps immerse the reader into the setting. The book uses side bar art and layout to convey both the atmosphere of the game and the atmosphere of the section you are in. For example the Core News is written to look like a newspaper and many computer graphic pictures are used.

Pictures – MD is full of pictures of good to excellent quality. Only two artists were used on the project and this helps keep the vision of the game consistent. The pictures are normally appropriate to the text that they accompany.

Writing Style – On the whole the writing style was good. SteamLogic is a small outfit from Canada and needed to translate all the English from French. The translation is generally good and rarely is any meaning lost or confusion caused. Those familiar with Agone will see some of the same little idiosyncrasies like misspelled words that sound the same (“thrown” and “throne”) and other odd turn of phrases. None of them are more than minor distractions.

MD’s biggest flaw is in its writing style, especially in the rules section where precision is important. I was able to understand all the rules presented but a few times I needed to go through the examples and the sample character sheet to work out what the text meant. Also, a few rules were hard to find as they appear out of sequence or in odd places. The rules are actually reasonably elegant but the feeling of this is lost at times in the imprecision of the writing.

This is somewhat countered by the fact that is reasonably well structured to support easy referencing, reasonably complete in that all the rules you need are there and that there is an upcoming errata to deal with any outstanding issues. I would recommend reading through the rules more that once to deal with this problem.

References – Unfortunately, there is no index in the book which always makes referencing difficult. However both sides of the book do have comprehensive contents pages. The book structure is well set out and made finding references easy.

DREAM SIDE

Introduction – This section provides a good introduction into the world of MD and is one of the best written sections in the book as it eases the reader into the bizarre nature of the setting. There is a lexicon in the sidebars that is written to be relevant to the text, making understanding concepts in the introduction easy.

Races – Each of the ten race receives a 3 page full colour treatment. These are written in first person much like a Tribe 8 book. This helps convey the race from a setting point of view getting across physicality, psychology and idiosyncrasies of each race. The down side with using first person is that sometimes it is difficult to get a complete picture if something falls beyond the narration. However the races all have an additional page in the Mechanical Side which together provides a very complete view of the races.

The races vary considerably to cloned warriors, sea dwelling amphibians, biomechanical workers, vegetal mystics, demon possessed predators and provide a lot of inspiration and fun as well as serious role-playing opportunities.

Echoes – Each of the ten Echoes receives a one page treatment. I would have liked to have seen more here especially as they do not get as much more explanation in the Mechanical section besides general discussion of Echoes and their individual Gifts and Powers. However, there is more than enough in the main book. The Echoes are similar to classes but are presented in a broad manner that allows a player to interpret the Echo as it relates to their PC. This does make the Echo descriptions a little confused at times but overall I think the lack of absolutes is good as it provides a wider variety of possibilities. Years of Chaos – This section covers the history of Kainas. The history is not only fascinating but also reasonably convincing. It reflects our own world more than Middle Earth or other fantasy realms.

Core News – This large section covers the Core in considerable detail including its structure, it’s political system, its goals, its geography it’s society and infrastructure. This is finished off with a list of numerous companies. This section may sound dull but it was fascinating to the last. It did well to present the wide range of possibilities whilst still providing detail. For example each of the cities received a few paragraphs and a picture. The companies ranged from a company of Echo agents (like those sports stars have) to new and improved ways to pack food (packing that actually improves the flavour of food the longer it remains packed).



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mechanical Dream: Mechanical Book
by Luke W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/21/2013 14:11:40

PART 2 of RPG.net review, originally posted on RPG.net here: http://www.rpg.net/news+reviews/reviews/rev_6172.html

MECHANICAL BOOK

Walker’s Walk – Walker’s Walk is a story about a Gnath Walker. The story serves the purpose of presenting many elements of the setting in a dynamic way. This reinforcement of the Dream side setting material helps fill out the setting. The story is not particularly strong but the purpose is a guided tour of the setting. It helps the setting really come alive.

Rules – The rule system is relatively simple. It is similar to Silhouette in its mechanic i.e. roll x dice and take the highest but uses variable dice e.g. d4-d12s. Attribute governs the size of the dice and the range of possible results. Skill represents the number of dice and so the consistency of an action. Finally masteries can be obtained that will add to the result reducing the chance of botching and increasing the range of possibilities.

The rules are strong and even heavy at times, which may come as a surprise to those that would expect a rules lite system from a game focussed on setting. The lethality and realism of the rule set helps convey this fantasy setting as “Dark” and “Industrial”.

Unfortunately, as mentioned above the elegance of the rules is sometimes lost in out of sequence rules, imprecise writing and a very few errors. Nothing that is insurmountable but novice RPGers may have some difficulty with understanding the entire rules initially.

Combat – Combat is involved but not necessarily complex. At first glance it looks like it will havelogistical problems. Using multiple d8s and d12s could present a problem but in reality most people will be using no more than 4 dice at a time.

The system uses a combat pool to good effect to provide lots of flexibility and character in combat without much extra complexity. The combat pool represents combat experience over pure skill, by being the maximum number of dice that a person can use each turn. For example a great theoretical tactician would have a low combat pool but high tactics skill. In a relaxed situation they could use their full skill but in combat they would be struggling to concentrate. There are also recommendations on how to graphically deal with combat pool that were useful. It may need a few playtests, but the combat seems solid and fun.

The combat system is deadly and is about the level of Blue Planet v2 in many ways. Not only do guns kill but also the MD setting presents a variety of even nastier weapons to select from.

Mind – The Mind section deals withpsychology, insanity and fear. The Mind is a large component in MD from propaganda to psychosis. It also presents the idea of Mindscapes which presents a whole new range of role-playing possibilities not found in most other RPGs. Mind walkers are able to enter into people’s minds and actively interact with it, be looking through their Library of Memories or fighting the person’s paranoia represented as nasty critters. Fans of the movie The Cell will enjoy the potential role-playing opportunities presented by this section.

Eflow, Patterns and Reality – The Pattern and Reality section was probably the biggest unexpected gem in the book (besides the Mind section) and was very thought provoking. Together they raise questions as the nature of reality, weaving that in with setting aspects like the Dream and the Core’s philosophy. One is left thinking that reality is defined by those that perceive it and so is established through patterns and relationships. Someone who is better known that someone one else is in a sense more real as they exist in more people’s minds. The full extent of this is not fully explored in this book but there are tantalising promises that the possibilities will be explored with later supplements. Even with just this book though this section opens a whole range of new possibilities that combined with the Mind section really blew me away.

Character Creation – This chapter is the biggest in the book. It breaks down the character creation process into a number of sections. Choose race, attributes, job/skills, Echo vocation, edges and flaws and equipment. Each section has lots of flexibility. At the end of each section unused points become freebie points. The idea is to deal with maintain enormous variety of power level but achieve some form of balance, even if they can’t exactly be equated. For example some races are more powerful than others are.

I like the use of prescribed skill packages by job similar to Blue Planet v2. I also liked how there was the option to build your own skill groups . The jobs are numerous, varied and do a good job of conveying the bizarre setting like the tinkering Slum Assemblers or the hardy Airjacks. Each has their own picture, description and has about 6 grades to represent levels of expertise.

The equipment section, like the job section, is a fascinating read. It is peppered with pictures of bizarre and innovative equipment ideas. From sniper rifles made from wood to look like staves to tanks to weird and interesting drugs. The equipment list was full (including everyday items and accommodation).

Absolute Judge – This section covered how to present the Dream, geography, flora, fauna and creatures of the setting as well as providing the obligatory GM advice. Again this section was a fascinating read, extremely comprehensive and does well to immerse you into the setting. The Dream opens up enormous possibility to the game as the very fabric of reality becomes malleable. Each piece of flora, fauna or geography was new, exciting and unique. This section really shows the level of thought that has gone into the details of the setting as well as the setting as a whole. The GM advice that only occupied a few pages had some useful advice but on the whole did not present any new ideas.

Final Chapter – This section covered two areas. The first was a complete list of First Sphere Echo Gifts. Each Echo (of which there are ten) has 3 Gifts and each of these has 4 Powers. The Gifts are on the whole well done, though I haven’t had chance to see if there are balanced in play. In many ways this did seem like a White Wolf discipline list. However the basis for many powers were new and each had a small in character paragraph that helps the Powers be evocative. More importantly, Mechanical Dream is designed to work as a setting for the normal people first and Echoes can be used to whatever level the GM requires. I must note that the higher Sphere Gifts will only be available in later supplements. This is slightly annoying but the game works well without them as Echoes are necessary to the setting. The GM’s companion, which is out next, will contain all second Sphere Gifts and these two Spheres will cover 95% of all Echoes.

The second area is expanded and spotlighted rule elements for various races and Echoes. Rules on building personalised Judicator’s blade and Yaki armour, the laws and sentences that can be passed by a Judge and detailed creation rules for the hideous Aran dweller that resides in every Zin. These do feel as if they have been tagged on the end of the book but the ideas in them more than make up for this. It is good to see that these particular elements are given full treatment and not condensed.

CONCLUSION

MD is the most RPG impressive book I have seen. The setting and presentation alone are worth the very reasonable price for this book. My only advice is that the rules may need to be read through a more than once. Even though MD is not perfect (what RPG is?), MD excels and more than achieves what it sets out to do. I wouldn’t hesitate to it “Excellent” 5 for Style and 5 for Substance.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mechanical Dream: Mechanical Book
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