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Dancing with Bullets Under a Neon Sun
by Bob V. G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/23/2021 18:05:25

Today I soloed my way through Dancing With Bullets Under a Neon Sun. It is for a Game Master and several players. It is a weird cyberpunk game powered by The Black Hack. To play this, all you need is this RPG, a variety of dice, and some RPG experience. It assumes you already know what you are doing. It has 72 pages which include one map, 8 types of armor, 12 weapons, 6 classes, 34 gear items, and a “I search the body chart” (100 items). So, the device hacking and navigating the Net with your soul is fascinating. I did not want my characters to be stuck in one city, so I decided to solo an adventure. I used a solo engine that I have been testing out. I used five of the six characters classes for five of my characters and I added a psychic. The adventure I used was Sensations of Bliss, an ESPER GENESIS™ adventure. My characters did the mission for cash and were able to visit a remote trade outpost and a spaceship/city. It had a good variety of skill tests and combat. When they searched the dead body of Merrick, my contractor found an expensive wristwatch. All six of my characters survived. Give this interesting system a try!



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dancing with Bullets Under a Neon Sun
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Dancing with Bullets Under a Neon Sun
by Brian S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/28/2020 08:11:22

System: Modified Black Hack Contents: 72 pages, roughly 60% Rules and Advice, 40% Random Tables Art: Troika meets Cyberpunk (wimsical dream logic doodles, Mobius-inspired techno detail, garish colors, isometic wireframe maps)

Weird Cyberpunk action awaits in DWBUANS. Emphasis on the weird, a bizzare retrofuture lovingly filled with genre cleches and tropes. Lots of great random tables for ideas for adventures, antagonists, locations, vendors and the like.

Some interesting modifications to base Black Hack rules make it its own beast. I just wish there was tighter explanations for certain rules (how to stat NPCs, how leveling works, are players meant to start without weapons they don't purchase, etc). A sentence or two here and there could fix this without the need for a radical rewrite. Its easy enough for a GM to make a snap judgemnt call or lean on other Black Hack game knoweldge and keep the game going, just feels like a few more eyes in playtesting would have helped.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Phantasmagoria #02
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/21/2020 11:56:26

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second installment of the Sword & Planet-‘zine for DCC clocks in at 34 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page back cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, 3 pages of room for notes, leaving us with 26 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested via direct donation as a prioritized review, though said person has been very patient with me getting this done. Thank you.

My review is based on the pdf-version; I do not own the print version.

So, easily the best thing in the deeply-flawed first issue of this ‘zine was the relative rules-lite proposed system of spaceship rules, which has been revamped, streamlined and expanded in this supplement. We still have 3 ability scores: -Evasion affects AC, Initiative, Hull Points (renamed from hit points – smart choice) and Action points -Luck can be burned to improve rolls -Targeting affects attack rolls by permanent weapons or ramming. The system assumes a hex-grid and roll for initiative as usual; they get 5 + Evasion modifier Action Points; each Action point can be used to turn 60° (one side of the hex), or to move one hex forward. Alternatively, two Action Points can be spent to move backwards one hex or execute a maneuver. The transparency between ship and characters is interesting: The Pilot steers, and other characters are assumed to use the weapons, move e.g. from bunks or recreation area to combat stations, etc., so you may want mapped ships for that. (Evil Robot Games offers a ton of great spaceship maps…just sayin’…) Action Points do not carry over into subsequent rounds.

Maneuvers require a Piloting check: 1d20 + ship’s Evasion modifier + pilot’s level, and on a failed check, you roll on the 1d8 failed maneuver table. Considering that the lowest fixed DC is 18 (Evade uses the enemy’s attack roll), you have a good reason to not constantly employ these. The pdf provides a total of 4 maneuvers: Loop, Burst, Evade, Hide. I couldn’t help but wish that we got more of those. The spaceship rules also includes an optional rule for the classic shaking in space we know from TOS, Raumpatroullie Orion, etc.

So yeah, I like this system, but I couldn’t help but feel that it’d have been awesome to get more sample ships, tools for ships, maneuvers, etc.

After this, we move to a d30 table of artifacts. These are presented in a rather barebones manner, so if you expected the level of detail we usually see for e.g. magic items in DCC, you won’t get that: The best way to envision them, also due to the oscillating quality of the rules-language, would be to consider them inspiration and not much more. The table includes a blaster that requires that the target saves against the attack roll or disintegrate. There is a cloning tank (that requires a few months and some serious funds) to regrow characters. To give you an example: the Endless Battery notes: “Contains infinite energy and can be used to power most basic spaceship engines, but limits potential output to amount that can be taken by anything connected without exploding.” Yeah, I mean, that’s an idea, but not much more than that. Like the aforementioned rifle, there are some entries that are really problematic: Personal Space Suit notes: Creates an indestructible bubble around a character for interplanetary or interstellar travel (treat stats as escape pod, except cannot be destroyed).” Yep, we have a RAW indestructible defensive measure sans activation, drawback, duration, etc. Are you seeing what I’m seeing? This is at best a draft in my book, but not a cleanly-designed table of properly codified concepts.

More interesting (and much better designed) would be the 6 alien poisons, which include data sludge, a particularly effective poison against automatons…and Zelodonis’ Bane. This poison is really cool: It eliminates letters from the characters’ name, does not heal, and upon running out of letters, the character is forgotten by the multiverse…including deities forgetting clerics, patrons their wizards, etc.. This can be an amazing narrative tool. It also means that clerics are well-advised to have Picasso-like names…unless they want to be forgotten. Or do they? You see, there is a big issue in rules-integrity here: The poison does not specify whether it eliminates e.g. the letter “O” entirely from the affected characters’ name, or just ONE letter. Since the damage on a failed save is 1d30 letters, I assume the latter. That being said, I do think that the number of letters is VERY high for this one.Did I mention the poison that instantly heals under a full moon? Anyhow, this section may not be perfect, but it has some good ideas.

I wish I could say the same about the prosthetics-chapter, which seems to have been designed for another system: It references Dexterity multiple times, and Agility in other entries. This should have been caught in editing. The pdf also includes a spell that behaves as a ritual of sorts, the second level eldritch limb spell, which allows you to regrow lost limbs…Slightly weird, but cosmetic: The effects f the spell have a header that labels them as misfires…which isn’t correct. (Yes, misfire section is included.) Pretty sure that some organization went wrong in layout here.

The pdf then presents a stellar system generator with 9 tables that allow you to determine the center of gravity, number of cosmic bodies, type of cosmic bodies, what they’re inhabited by, valuable resources, status of resources, animal life, level of civilization, type of government. The tables note the next table to roll on and the die to roll. Solid if you need a basic generator, but not mind-blowing.

The pdf then proceeds to present monster generation: We first get a d12 table for monster reskins that include giving classic critters scifi weapons, adding eyes or tentacles, etc. If you’re new to the genre, the table may be helpful; otherwise, you’ll already know these tricks. The pdf then proceeds to a 2-page monster generator in 6 tables: You roll for HD, Size, AC, type of attack, intelligence and appearance. Essentially, this generator provides the basics. If you want the basics taken care of, this does its job; if you want to roll up something unique with a plethora of weird abilities, use one of the other generators out there.

The pdf closes with a nice d20-based dressing table of ways to getting around, which include ziplines, exoskeletons, flying barges, etc. – classic tropes blended with e.g. litters carried by skeletons and similar strangeness. Having an issue devoted to, you know, actual rules for these would have been nice. The pdf also sports an errata for issue #1, which does btw. not nearly cover all hiccups. It also should not be in issue #2, and instead, you know, be integrated into #1.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are okay; they have improved since #1 of the ‘zine, but the magazine still would benefit from a tight rules editor/developer. Layout adheres to a solid two-column standard with really nice original b/w-artworks, and the pdf is properly bookmarked for your convenience.

Chance Phillips’ second Phantasmagoria is a step in the right direction; the glitches that negatively impact functionality are less pronounced in this issue than in the first one. That being said, I really wish that the author (and/or editor) had actually taken the time to make sure that the sometimes rather cool ideas had also been supplemented by proper rules. As it stands, this ‘zine’s primary uses are the ship-engine, some basic generators for judges new to the job/genre, and some tables that essentially boil down to half-fleshed out dressing that could use some meat on its bones.

As someone rather into the genre, I didn’t get that much out of the dressing components, and the generators fell flat for me as well; as a person, I don’t consider this to be more useful than #1, with the exception of the ship-system expansion, though I wished that had gone further.

As a reviewer, however, I can see this being significantly more useful for judges with less experience in genre fiction, though I have to pronounce a caveat emptor for them due to the glitches influencing rules-integrity. As a whole, I consider this to be a mixed bag for most judges, and as such, my final verdict will be 3 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Phantasmagoria #02
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Phantasmagoria #01
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/18/2020 10:21:05

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The first installment of the Phantasmagoria zine clocks in at 38 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page back cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, 3 pages of free space for notes, leaving us with 30 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested via direct donation as a prioritized review, though said person has been very patient with me getting this done. Thank you.

My review is based on the pdf-version; I do not own the print version.

So, in order to get your apartment’s keys, you need to use your rat Blob with the couch, then lure the fellow back out with your purse using your snickers-bar…

…wait, sorry. Wrong Phantasmagoria. This zine is all about sword and planet options for the DCC game, and this review was requested to be moved up in my reviewing queue as a prioritized review via donation.

This pdf contains a total of 5 new classes, so let’s start by examining these. The first one, the automaton, gets 1d10 hit points per level, and the automaton gets a weapon of their choice integrated into their chassis. They don’t wear armor and start off with Crit Die/Table 1d6/I; table remains the same, but crit die scales up to d16. Action die begins at 1d16, and scales up to 1d30, and is applied to attacks or skill checks. We have good Fortitude saves (bad Reflex and Will) and a ½ attack-progression. Automata get the sociopath restriction – Their Personality can’t exceed 15; they still list any score in excess of that in brackets, though – for the purpose of losing Personality, the value in brackets is used. Automata are modular, and as such, you get to roll 1d30 on every level attained, including first level.

So, what types of modularity can you get? Well, we have +1d4 hit points, +2 AC, moving ANY ranged attacks up one step in the die chain, or perfect recollection of any building the automaton’s been in before. There also is the option to “cast one first level spell with an effective caster level equal to one-half of their level.” Okay, from which list? Compare that with the ability to crush ten cubic feet of loosely packed matter into a 1’ cube. Okay, notice that they are a bit uneven. Being able to see in the dark, as a trained skill, might sound neat, but the pdf fails to specify the associated ability score. Compare with infravision, which is NOT defined as a skill, and instead is automatic. And yes, the pdf is not precise with any of the modularity options and their associated ability scores. Meh. There also is e.g. a means to project thoughts or holodisk contents on a flat surface – cool! Not so cool: No dimensions are provided. Can you become a cinema projector? Is there a range? No idea. Compare being able to create a nutritious sludge that resembles tea (ending world hunger?) and healing 1d6 hp per hour. These are not all issues of the table, just an excerpt, mind you.

Automata also suffer from malfunctions – on any action die roll with a natural 1, they roll on a 1d12 malfunction table. This table suffers from similar issues. So, you can catch fire. Got it. Guess what#s missing? Bingo, the customary Dc to extinguish the flames. One module may break. No rules are provided to repair it. (RAW this means you can literally permanently lose class features.) The automaton can have its memory banks wiped for 1d10 rounds. Okay, cool. How does that work? Can the automaton still defend itself? Is it standing around, stunned? Is there a default programming? No idea. “The automaton desperately needs an oil bath.” Okay, what effects does this have? How much time before something happens? Automatons add Luck modifier to all trained skills. All in all, I consider this class to be a weak take on the concepts; its randomness doesn’t make much sense, and the unique rules components are pretty sloppy in their details. There are plenty better automata-class options out there for DCC.

Let’s see if the second class, the captain, fares better. The captain is familiar with dagger, flintlock pistol, longsword, shortsword and usually only wear light armor. We get 1d6 hit points, ¾ attack-progression, good Will-saves, and crit die/table starting at 1d10/III; the crit table remains III, and the die scales up to 1d24; the class begins with 1d10 as the action die, and +1d4 is gained at 5th level, growing pretty rapidly, capping at 1d20+1d20+1d14. Wait…the third die starts off as 1d14? I am PRETTY SURE that the action die gained at 5th level should be 1d14, not 1d4, unless the design choice here is SUPER-WEIRD. Action dice may be used for attack rolls or skill checks. The class gets good Will-saves. While we’re talking about glitches in class tables: All class tables consistently are missing their plusses, which bugged the hell out of me. Captains apply their Luck modifier to attack rolls with swords, but this bonus does not increase or decrease with luck score, and remains static instead, as per the first level score.

Any allied creature with a Deed Die within 20 ft. of the captain move the Deed Die one step up the dice chain; allies without a Deed Die within 10 ft. instead move their primary action die one step up the dice chain. Captains excel at one-on-one combat, and as such, when facing a single opponent alone, they get +2 AC, but also take 1d4 additional damage from other foes attacking them. Additionally, the captain gets to choose one of 7 special abilities when in a duel with an enemy, which include disarming, disorientation, feinting, etc., with 4th and 8th level letting you choose another effect. These sometimes refer to the wrong class, namely, duelist instead of captain. This makes sense, as, when you’re familiar with PFRPG, you’ll have a good idea of what to expect here. This is a duelist/cavalier-y class; that’s not a bad thing per se, mind you, as the mechanics have been adapted to DCC well enough. Precise strike, for example, lets you decrease the attack one step on the dice chain, but also nets you an double damage die of the weapon used: 1d6+3 would become 2d6+3, for example.

The third class would be the gremlin, who gets 1d8 hit points, ¾ BAB-progression, good Ref-saves, and crit die starts at 1d6 and progresses to 1d16, with the crit table remaining II. The action die starts off at 1d20, with 1d14 gained at 5th level, and 10th level providing the third die, for a total of 1d20 + 1d20 +1d14. The gremlin is proficient with dagger, flintlock pistol, longsword, nuclear pistol, “short sword”[sic!] and light armor. The class doesn’t specify where the action dice may be used, and the gremlin gains a limited amount of spells (up to 6, with the table providing 12 first-level, 9 2nd-level and 4 3rd-level spells as choices. The class fails to specify how the gremlin casts spells/list. Gremlins are mechanically-inclined and can repair broken equipment and relics; they can also sabotage things, rolling 1d12 and adding Intelligence modifier, which is interesting, but it probably means that the small table’s lower entries will never come into play. Problem regarding internal consistency: Can a gremlin repair an automaton, and if so, how does that work? No idea. Luck applies where? No idea.

The jovians get 1d5 hit points, are trained with all melee weapons and do not wear armor. Jovians can use their Luck modifier for melee attack rolls, and have ¾ attack progression, good Reflex-progression; we have the same action die progression as with the last two classes, and use crit table III until 7th level, where that is upgraded to IV; crit die starts at 1d8, and improves that to 1d24 at 10th level. Jovians are bird-like people (that look nothing like birds) hailing from a high-gravity gas giant, and gains +2 to Strength, to a maximum of 18. They get a 40 foot movement rate and carry up to 1.5 times their body weight, which is somewhat weird in a game that literally makes fun of encumbrance rules in the core book’s chapter. Now, mind you, I like encumbrance rules, but in this instance, context would have been nice. Jovians can meditate for a minute to temporarily float slowly, with 5th, 7th and 9th level increasing the speed while floating.

The final class would be the star prince, who begins play at 6th level (being the scion of, well, stars) and 1d20 + 1d16 action dice, which follow the progression to 1d20 + 1d20 +1d14, and are applied for attacks; attack-progression adheres to a ¾-progression, and crit die starts at 1d24, improving to 2d20, with crit table V used. Star princes get 1d10 hit points per level, thus starting off at 6d10, and they are trained in all weapons, but wearing armor eliminates their abilities. They have good saving throw progression in all saves and apply their Luck modifier to them. Depending on what type of star they were, they get one of 4 types of unearthly aura, but the respective auras don’t really have effects. Metal melee weapons wielded by star princes inflict +1d4 damage, and prolonged contact similarly deals 1 damage. They have a 15 ft. fly speed, with every odd level increasing that by +5 ft.

After these classes, we get an array of new weapons, with some interesting ones included: chain swords, for example, have a 2d16L damage – you take 2d16, roll them, and use the lower. The text for the flamethrower contradicts the table – is its range 30 ft. or 40 ft.? How can the nuclear pistol have the same ranges as a nail gun (20/10/1930), and how come that the medium and maximum ranges are so utterly weird and nonsensical? How can a nuclear pistol have a longer range than a nuclear rifle? Why does a blunderbuss not require a frickin’ attack roll, which it most assuredly should? The consistency here is weird. This also applies in the sidebar regarding the weapons core classes are familiar with: Thieves, oddly, are not familiar with the concealed ring blaster RAW, even though it’s clearly a weapon most suitable for thieves.

The armors provided include fungal armor (decreasing AC, but can regenerate its AC bonus), nanofiber suits, power armor (+2 Strength, +1 to atk thanks to HUD, one-hand wielding two-handed weapons), carbon fiber vests, personal forcefields and graphene bodysuits. The fumble dice and speed modifications as well as their check penalties fall on the very low side of things when compared to the core book. Personal forcefields net, for example, +6 to AC, -2 to checks, -10 ft to speed (but you can move faster, losing the benefits until the start of the next round), d8 fumble die, 2k credits cost. Compared to the banded mail, this is vastly superior, and it loses the design paradigm of AC bonus = check penalty for armors beyond light category that DCC usually has. The balancing attempt employed seems to be the significantly higher prices, but considering how DCC usually operates in that regard, I’m not sure that this was a good call. A few pretty generic items are also included, like Forged I.D., telescreens, etc. – these are pretty…lackluster? They seem like an afterthought. I’d have preferred a more detailed (and interesting) chapter. The pdf then sports a 70-entry occupation table, with associated trained weapons and trade goods noted – I per se like this, but I don’t get why it didn’t go for the full 100 entries, considering it has quite a bit of blank space on the last page it’s featured on.

The pdf then proceeds to provide space ship rules: Space ships have 3 stats, which you determine via 3d6: Evasion is added to the pilot’s rolls to evade danger, AC and hit points; Luck can be burned on any roll pertaining ship or components thereof, and Targeting is added to all attack rolls. A ship’s Hit Points depend on make – escape pods have one, and you add Evasion modifier to all HD. The pdf presents 7 sample ships, with HD, # of weapons, # of passengers, cargo space and cost in credits noted. Ships may be powered by one of 8 engines, with solar sails, portal chains, magical siphons, spatial folders etc. included.

These are thematically cool, but little more than window-dressing as presented. Magic siphons can be powered by spell levels, cool. Portal chains can “teleport several light years at a time”—okay, how much? This is promising, but as provided little more than dressing. We get space ship weapons next. The pdf states that “damage against actual characters may be far higher” – okay, by how much? No clue. The weapons include Star Crash-style boarding tools, cannons, etc. Costs are actually pretty low here, and same goes for the ship armor (4 types provided). Armor for ships has a buffer value, and when hit, reduces damage by this amount, while decreasing by one whenever the ship takes damage in one hit that exceeds the buffer value. Seeing how the weapon damage seems to be pretty low, this checks out well. The pdf also explains how space ship armor is supposedly super-expensive. …it’s not that expensive in comparisons to other items herein. The best armor for regular dudes, the graphene bodysuit (AC +7, 0 check penalty, d6 fumble die) costs more than all but one of the space ship armors. The text also mentions repairs, but never specifies a cost or the like.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are okay on a formal level, but not on a rules-language level; there are quite a lot of inconsistencies and hiccups here. Layout adheres to a one-column b/w-standard, with impressive and evocative original artworks by Jim Magnusson, Stefan Poag, Jeremy Hart, Penny Melgarejo – this is a beautiful booklet, also thanks to Glynn Seal’s expertly done layout. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Chance Phillips’ first Phantasmagoria-zine is an exercise in frustration for me. It looks like a high-quality supplement and is, time and again, very close to making its material work pretty well. However, once you start actually using the content, poking it and really checking its details, you’ll encounter these holes that should really have been caught. I mean, I didn’t even try to poke holes into the rules of the classes; this is DCC, not PFRPG after all—I don’t expect the same level of consistency or detailed definitions of design elements, but when the rules require essentially guesswork on part of the judge, things become problematic. And DCC is pretty well-codified in a LOT of its components. Take all issues I fielded and compare them against the core book’s materials, and you’ll see what I mean. The material herein has no justification for the holes it sports in the engine; there is no deliberate design behind these holes. This supplement is one critical dev/editing run away from being really, really good, but as provided, it is a deeply-flawed offering.

The setting hinted at is tantalizing, and the spaceship engine is promising, if a little barebones, considering that combat etc. isn’t actually defined and covered. It seems to be a teaser of a proper system, rather than a full system, if you get what I mean.

As a whole, I can’t rate this higher than 2.5 stars, and after some serious deliberation, I don’t feel I can round up for this. There are too many glitches affecting the mechanical integrity for that.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Phantasmagoria #01
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Blood Floats in Space
by Fox C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/03/2020 15:45:05

Blood Floats in Space is new tool set for Mothership and any scifi game. The art is wonderful and provokes a setting of sci-fantasy. Feels like an expansion to players handbook.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Blood Floats in Space
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Extinguish the Sun #02
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/26/2020 13:15:52

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second installment of the Extinguish the Sun-‘zine clocks in at 20 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/introduction, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 17 pages, laid out in 6’’ by 9’’ (A5), so let’s take a gander!

As the introduction notes, this book is essentially a genre-port/hack that takes the LotFP-rules (Lamentations of the Flame Princess), and adjusts them to apply to the cyberpunk genre. (As an aside, if you’re like me and considered the first issue’s setting to be promising – it’s been picked up by Necrotic Gnome!) The different focus can be seen in layout, with corporate logos and warnings provided.

The supplement presents 4 new classes; The cyborg gets d8 HD, save- and XP-progression of the dwarf, and the class gets 3 skills to be divided among 5 core skills; these behave like the usual LotFP-skills, and include Guidance (which covers navigation), Knowledge, Vision mods, Math, and Strength – the latter is a bit unfortunately-named. Why not call it “Feats of Strength”, “Muscles” or some such to avoid confusion between skill and ability score. The Lowlife gets d6 HD, save-, XP- and skill-progression as a specialist, with two unique skills introduced: The first is Acquisitions, which represents the ability to get their hands on goods, legal and illegal products, etc.; the second skill is Offloading, which is the skill used to get rid of stuff, fence contraband, etc. These two skills start off as 1 in 6, so the base values need not be purchased. The mercenary has d10 HD, an elf’s saving throw progression, and an XP-progression of the specialist. The mercenary can get odd jobs that pay 50 bucks per day, and they pick a primary weapon from a list of 3, a sidearm from a list of 4, and a special ability from a list of 4 (Skilled, Stout, Savage, Martial Arts). With the primary weapon, the mercenary has an attack bonus equal to their level, ½ their level (rounded up) with the secondary weapon. If choosing unarmed as secondary weapon, the mercenary deals 1d4 damage with those. Martial Arts upgrades unarmed secondary weapon damage to 1d8, if present, and when the character attacks, they get +2 to Ac until their next turn. Stout upgrades HD t d12. Skills nets 4 points that can be used in specialist skills, but not the new ones of the lowlife. Savage increases the daage die caused with all attacks by one step; d12s become d12 + 1d4, just fyi.

The final class, and the only one sans a delightful b/w-artwork, would be the Phreak who gets d4 HD, save-progression as a magic-user, XP-progression as a cleric. These fellows have embedded datajacks, and can jack into the Matrix. If they take damage while jacked in, they are ejected and take additional damage. Safely logging off from the Matrix takes a whopping 10 minutes. The Matrix as envisioned here is explained in detail; its structure is that it is made up of nodes, rooms, all interconnected, a vast, sprawling digital metropolis/dungeon-crossover. Equipment must be smuggled into the Matrix via a backdoor, and costs as much in the Matrix as in real life. Matrix-use items can’t be sold. Regular characters can only take 4 items with them, while phreaks get up to 6. Additionally, phreaks get d12 HD in the Matrix, and attack bonus equal to their level. The HD of other users is contingent on skin-quality of the avatar, ranging from d4 to d10.

The pdf also presents a basic equipment list that covers both melee and ranged weapons, as well as armor. Ranged weapons do tend to inflict A LOT more damage than melee; the pdf does not state how reloading, clip-size etc. is handled, and regarding the latter, no information whatsoever is provided. Considering the damage-discrepancy, I’m pretty sure that something’s missing here.

The pdf also features a brief summary of the setting, which is pretty much par for the course: 5 big corporations  rule the world, and they all get a brief paragraph of a summary, alongside their own corporate logos. Only a job at the big 5 is worth anything – everything else renders you an outcast, as the employment card doubles as an ID and credit card. Players are either ID-less outcasts  or have the very limited freelancer cards.

The pdf closes with a brief interview featuring Daniel Sell of the Melsonian Arts Council.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting is very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a one-column b/w-standard with nice interior artwork by Evelyn M.; David Shugars’ layout is nifty for such a minimalist publication, and I really like Anxy’s cover art. The pdf has no bookmarks, which is a bit of a comfort detriment.

Chance Phillips’ cyberpunk hack left me exceedingly unimpressed; I’m a fan of the genre, and while the execution of what is here is decent, I don’t really see the necessity of the supplement; this is very much cookie-cutter cyberpunk without flair or novelty, and if you have ever read Neuromancer, or played 2020 or Shadowrun, you can probably improvise more complex and exciting  material. The conception of the Matrix as a dungeon stand-in is clever, but not sufficiently-realized/explained to make long-term campaigning make sense. As a whole, I’d be hard-pressed to play a compelling game with these rules, or a motivation to build on them. Unlike in the first installment, there simply isn’t much here to set this apart on either a mechanical, or narrative level. I can’t recommend this ‘zine. My final verdict can’t exceed 2.5 stars, rounded down.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Extinguish the Sun #02
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Extinguish the Sun #01
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/25/2020 12:33:40

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The first installment of the „Extinguish the Sun“-zine clocks in at 16 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 14 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

The rules-set assumed in this supplement would be B/X, which means that it operates relatively seamlessly with Old School Essentials, my current go-to presentation on the B/X-rules.

So, this supplement assumes a kind of Mad Max-y/Tank Girl-y setting that is somewhat fantasy-post-apocalypse like; there is a subdued, slightly allegorical quality that is particularly prevalent in the environment depicted in the beginning of the ‘zine, namely the “City in Chains” – a rotting country, where the king watches from his sealed tomb, where are representatives of castes are caricatures or perversions of their erstwhile craft. The hazy notion implies that you have to want to get there, or you won’t find it, forgetting it; this dreamlike haziness is the strongest component of this write-up, for it adds a surreal aspect to the place. Chefs are blinded and have seared hands from being forced to check temperature by hand; the engineers are paranoid creators of strange weaponry, for there can only be a few, and to get a spot, you have to kill one of them; the generals rule and are decadent…you get the idea. Priesthood and taxmen are covered as well, and as a whole, we get an impression of a city rotting at the seams. It is an interesting piece of writing and setting, but one that suffers from its indecisiveness: If it is allegorical and surreal, it could go much farther and doesn’t; if it’s primarily supposed to be plausible, it feels almost like a caricature of such a place. The article was an enjoyable read, and certainly can inspire, particularly if you’re less jaded and versed in such literature or concepts than I am.

After this, we get the two new classes – both fit all relevant information on one page, and indicate with a handy scissor item that they can be cut out of a print version; the Marksman is an 8-level class with Dexterity 9 as prerequisite and Dexterity as prime requisite, who may not wear armor, but may use any weapon. The class gets d8 HD, uses the fighter’s XP-progression and (TH)AC0 progression, but sports a unique save progression. They begin play with an ancestral firearm, and may execute stunts. These must be announced before an attack roll is made, and apply a penalty to the attack. The pdf encourages making more than the 4 presented. These include doubled range at -1 to atk, save or die due to a headshot (if you roll a natural 20 only), ricochet and rapid fire. Weird: The class caps at level 8, explicitly says so, but applies the header “Reaching 9th Level” to a section that pertains to their capstone level. All in all, a decent take on a super-stripped down version of Pathfinder’s gunslinger. Okay, but doesn’t win any prizes.

The Librarian is much more interesting: This class has a prime requisite of Intelligence, but needs a minimum Wisdom of 9; it spans 14 levels and gets d6 HD; they may use any weapon, but no armor.  They use the thief’s XP-progression, but their (TH)AC0 only improves from 19 to 17 at 6th level, and to 14 at 11th level. Their “attract followers”-level is 11th; the librarians are conceptually awesome: You may not (necessarily) know how to read, but you know of the importance of books – that’s why you wear them on your body the whole time, clad in a thick coat of books that works as chainmail armor. This is a fantastic concept, well-illustrated in a one-page artwork by Evevlyn M. Downside of wearing so many book: You take double fire damage. What do you get for that? Well, at 4th level you can smell books, automatically detecting them if passing within 10 ft. of one; at 10th level, you get a 5-in-6 chance to passively notice secret doors. Their death/poison save starts off at an atrocious 16, and the other saves aren’t particularly great either. As always, HD are capped at 9th level, with further levels providing +2 HP. And yes, that’s unfortunately it. No ability to cast from the books; no papercut abilities; no paper-plane, no magical origami. Just a dude wearing books as armor. This is the biggest, almost criminal waste of an awesome idea I’ve seen in a while.

The pdf then provides a table of 9 firearms with their stats, as well as three general templates of a sort; the damage values and range seem plausible, as do the prices. While the table is concise and shouldn’t provide problems for experienced GMs, the tables also has a “Notes”-column that e.g. lists: “a, m, s, 2h, L”; particularly since quite a few GMs I know switch between rules systems frequently, getting a brief explanation here would have been prudent.

So yeah, so far, this ‘zine may have been rather underwhelming, but then comes a great reason to get this supplement for its low price: Vehicle rules that are simple and elegant. You generally don’t need to check when driving, just when attempting a special maneuver. You check by rolling 1d10 + your Dexterity adjustment versus a number that is, at the highest 10 – essentially a DC. You check a small table, which lists different numbers for going slow, medium or fast. The rows denote conditions like the area being off-road, flooded, etc.; Swerves, turns, halts and controlled skids are defined, and the vehicle engine provides stats and costs for bikes, compacts, regular and large vehicles, including #1 of seats, Hit Points, cost, base speed, etc. Oh, and they have upgrade slots! 13 upgrades are provided, which range from being solar-powered to having a mounted cannon. I genuinely enjoy this engine; it is by far the best component of the pdf as far as I’m concerned, and considering the low price point, might well warrant getting this for you all on its own. Then again, I wished the supplement had provided more upgrades, covered e.g. melee weaponry, etc. There is a lot of material that the engine could use and is missing, including suggested damage values for being run over.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a two-column b/w-standard with some neat pieces of original b/w-artwork that I really enjoyed. The pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes a comfort detriment.

Chance Phillips’ first “Extinguish the Sun”-‘zine started of in a solid manner; the  write up of the city, while not exactly novel, might be enjoyable for some less jaded people out there; I liked it well enough. However, much like the two classes, I feel it didn’t go far enough with its ideas. The classes are duds to me, with particularly the librarian’s cool concept deserving better: The increased HD over the thief doesn’t pay for the lack of reasonable stuff to do and the deadly Achilles’ heel. The vehicle rules, though? They are genuinely well-crafted. I wished there had been more of them, for if this had used one or two of its pages more to make them work, we’d have a system I’d wholeheartedly recommend. If you’re looking for the like, this will be worth the $2.00 price-tag for you; if not, then…well. Not. As a whole, I consider this a mixed bag that sports some duds, but also a fun and well-executed subsystem. As such, my final verdict will be 3.5 stars; and due to the low and fair price point, I’ll round up for this one, if barely.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Extinguish the Sun #01
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On the Shoulders of Giants (LotFP-Compatible)
by Daniel D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/05/2018 21:24:26

An excellent array of material to be found here. Scrap's art is at the top of its game, and compliments Chance's meaty mythic bio-horror perfectly. I'm especially fond of the classes, which have found their way into my general-use pool. The setting is a little light in parts (lack of environmental variation between gods, for example), but this is a small thing and did not impede my enjoyment. The amount and quality of the content here is well worth the price.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
On the Shoulders of Giants (LotFP-Compatible)
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On the Shoulders of Giants (LotFP-Compatible)
by Tore N. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/14/2018 03:10:26

The central idea of this steting is that the world consists of dead gods. They are the terra firma, the source of food, magic and people. In fact food is an earlier stage of people.

The book starts out with four new character classes (in the style of LotFP).

The Conspirator is a sort of mastermind character. They plan crimes or serve as thief-takers and security experts. They have a number of Planning Points which lets them affect outcomes of rolls and such. I like this very much, but would like to give them a bit more oomph. The Corpse Worker is a damage-sponge and laborer, mining the god-corpses for raw materials. The Prize Fighter is an orphan or slave who escape their dire circumstances by knocking seven shades out of people. They dish it out as well as the LotFP fighter, but can't take it (as well). The Witch Doctor is a sorcerous mad scientist with the ability to perform Experiments.

Experiments are procedures somewhere between folk magic and Victor von Frankenstein. They are gross, and often involve trade-offs that would give a sane person pause.

As a whole the classes are good and flavorful, but I wonder if they're meant to work alongside or instead of the LotFP ones.

The geography of the dead gods is very quickly dealt with. Too quickly for my taste. In LotFP you usually have some historical setting to fall back on (the Thirty Years War etc), but here the basics themselves are weird. I would have liked some more info on daily life, or maybe a sample village or other location.

The monsters are cool, icky, and fit with the general body horror aesthetic. I would use them, even if I didn't use the setting.

Then we have an adventure location. It is fun if a bit brief.

The Appendicies are a random monster generator (I love it and will use it a lot) and a good list of inspirations/appendix N.

The illustrations are by Scrap Princess, and I'm a big fan.

Upshot: I like the product very much, but I'd like a bit more setting perhaps. (I have the .pdf, but not the physical book (yet)).



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
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