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Mechanical Dream: Mechanical Book $40.00 $30.00
Publisher: SteamLogic
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.htmlp>

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.



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