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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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