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Achtung! Cthulhu: Plotting Cthulhu Dossier
Publisher: Modiphius
by Drew P. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/01/2014 21:32:52

Plotting Cthulhu is a series of GM tips and random charts for Keepers. They score on this by including both a printer friendly and full color version of this, and for only $1.99 it’s a pretty decent value. They give a decent list of movies to help inspire Keepers right up front, and three examples that show how you can use movies to inspire you. And we all know that there are hundreds of sources of inspiration for WWII games out there in movies, TV shows and books, as well as video games and RPG’s.

They also include a handy 2 page map of Europe in Autumn of 1941. Unfortunately they also include three pages of ads. In a PDF that’s only 19 pages long this seems a bit excessive.

They do make up for it somewhat in the 9 pages they use for the plot generator. These tables cover everything from location, to villain and even plot hooks to get you started. It won’t let you work a fully fleshed game just from what’s in the tables, but it should be more than enough to get your juices flowing. Here’s just one random result using these tables:

The antagonist is a Deranged cult of the Yellow Sign who want to recover an entity/person for revenge. For this they will need a Tome. The characters face a rough time with nature closing in, and have to become the villains in order to succeed. The main reason the characters become involved is trying to prove documents related to technology ? An Accident sees them coming into possession of a secret weapon, which is the impidous for the entire adventure.

I could easily turn this into a face off between the characters and a mad cult of the Yellow Sign fighting to grab a scientist who is the creator of a secret weapon discovered by chance. The characters are trying to find the scientist of his designs for a new type of bomb. Maybe they end up with a choice between letting the bomb be taken by a superior number of cultists or destroying it in place, releasing toxins into the water supply which will kill or drive mad a nearby village. And that’s just off the top of my head.

Overall I think this would be a very useful addition to any Keeper wanting to add a little spice to their game without worrying about massive conspiracies and plots. A mission based game would benefit most from this, as the results often won’t be comparable between missions, but for a military unit that won’t matter.

Originally published at http://screenmonkey.blog.com/2014/04/02/review-achtung-cthul- hu-accessories/



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Achtung! Cthulhu: Plotting Cthulhu Dossier
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Achtung! Cthulhu: Secret War Documents
Publisher: Modiphius
by Drew P. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/01/2014 21:32:09

This pack contains a series of British and German form fillable telegrams in both full color and printer friendly versions, as well as document templates from six different players in the Secret War. All of these look good enough to be authentic, and I doubt any player is going to nitpick if they get handed a clue done up on one of these.

The only downside I see is that I wish they had included a brief document explaining the telegrams and how to fill them out. On the other hand, it took less than ten seconds on google to find several hundred examples, so it’s really hard to hold that against them.

These look good and will add a nice touch to future games, and you can’t beat the price.

Originally published at http://screenmonkey.blog.com/2014/04/02/review-achtung-cthulhu-accessories/



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Achtung! Cthulhu: Secret War Documents
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Achtung! Cthulhu: Gaming Tiles
Publisher: Modiphius
by Drew P. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/01/2014 21:31:35

The game tiles are made up of three sets, Elder City Ruins, Nazi Base and Snow Covered Outpost. All three feature both 10 x 10 and 10 x 5 tiles, but most of the 10 x 10′s are in the Snow covered outpost map. They are well made and there is an overlap to allow you to line up the larger tiles and tape them together to use on the tabletop. The artwork is pretty decent, making use of shadows and glow. The grid is unfortunately part of the images. I would have liked to have seen a layered PDF, maybe allowing some environmental effects to be added or removed, but I wasn’t really expecting it so I don’t mind too much.

The three area’s are definitely linked, with the snow covered outpost leading to the Nazi base and then into the elder city ruins, but they can be used independently as well. Overall I was pretty happy with the set, and will most likely be using it the next time I get a chance to run a Cthulhu game, whether Achtung! or not. I hope this wasn’t a one shot and that Modiphius plans on publishing a series of these tiles.

Originally published at http://screenmonkey.blog.com/2014/04/02/review-achtung-cthulhu-accessories/



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Achtung! Cthulhu: Gaming Tiles
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Don't Rest Your Head
Publisher: Evil Hat Productions, LLC
by Andrew P. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/27/2014 21:47:18

Originally published at http://screenmonkey.blog.com/?p=43. DRYH is a fascinating little indie game that really brings it's theme out with the mechanics of the system.  It's one of the first Indie games I ever bought, and remains one of the few I've actually had a chance to run.  The PDF is fairly short, being only 87 pages long, including the cover.  But they manage to pack a lot of game in there.

The art in the book is pretty decent, all black on white photo's of really people, very grainy and evocative of the setting.  That setting is the Mad City, which is a lot like our cities, turned up to ten and seen on an acid trip.  It's always night there, and you can find things that just could not exist in the real world, like a marketplace where you can buy and sell memories.  Or the Tacks man, an entity that will take you apart piece by piece, not just physically but also metaphorically.  Maybe this time he wants your ability to laugh, or the way you feel about music, and he can take it from you, a little at a time.

The game centers around the Awake, people who were once garden variety insomniacs who have been sleepless so long that now they no longer have a choice about being awake anymore, they've lost the ability to sleep voluntarily.  In exchange they've found their way into an impossible place that butts up against our world, and they've also found power that defies reason.

Mechanically the game is very simple.  You start with your Discipline dice pool, which is always three to start.  Any roll of 1,2 or 3 is a success.  You roll against the Director, who rolls a Pain pool based on what you are facing.  This pool can run from a single die up to over a dozen.  Seems like the player has a distinct disadvantage, but they also have two other pools that help out.  The first is Exhaustion, which they can add to any roll.  It starts out at zero, but in any scene you can voluntarily increase it once, even right before you roll.  Once you have an exhaustion die going though it sticks around.  Once you hit seven exhaustion in your pool you are going to crash, falling asleep and becoming a helpless victim.  There is also the Madness pool, and you can add up to 6 dice of Madness to any roll, and they do not stick around like exhaustion.

Another part of the die mechanics is that you also look at your highest die, in all pool.  That tells you which aspect dominates the action.  If it's Discipline, skill dominates and you have no downside to the roll.  Exhaustion dominating means that you taxed your resources and you add another exhaustion die to your pool.  If Madness dominates you give up a bit of control and things get more chaotic.  You have a number of responses available to you, either fight or flight.  If Madness is dominant you check off a response and act accordingly.  If you choose flight, you try to get away, huddle in a corner or generally flee the area if able. If you choose fight then you stick around and get aggressive, which may not be a good thing when you are outnumbered.  And finally, if the Directors Pain pool is dominant then things get a little worse for you.  Maybe reinforcements show up or a stairway gives out under you and you loose track of the person you were following.  All of these are independent of the success or failure of the roll, so you can succeed and still have it be a hollow victory if pain is dominant.

The awake also have talents, one exhaustion and one madness.  Exhaustion talents are things that normal people can do, but for some reason you excel at.  You might be a master gambler, an amazing shot or just so smooth you can talk your way out of trouble.  Madness talents on the other hand are things that are flat out impossible.  Teleportation, Mind Reading, Flight, all are on the table for Madness talents.  The thing is, to use either type of talent you have to roll the appropriate dice as part of your pool, and they get more effective as you increase the number of dice rolled.

Another thing to note in the system is the way they handle the typical character creation 20 questions thing.  In DRYH there are only five questions, but they define your character and what they are trying to do, as well as their past.  The questions are what's been keeping you awake. what just happened, whats on the surface, what lies beneath and what's your path.

The first is why you are even one of the Awake to begin with.  The second deals with what happened to push you over the edge into being awake.  What's on the surface shows the way people view you, and what lies beneath is the hidden aspect of your personality or past.  What's your path is your ultimate end goal, what you are trying to accomplish overall.  These are used by the Director to shape your own personal plot.  In most games these questions, if answered at all, would be going into back story and might come up once in a great while.  In DRYH, they are the central reason and motivation for everything you do.  The characters of this game are not necessarily going to be hunting for treasure or lost secrets, and their reasons for doing what they do should be much more personal and visceral than the typical adventurer in a fantasy or modern game.

This is one of the two indie games that I always mention to people who are looking for something a little out of the ordinary, and I highly recommend it.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Don't Rest Your Head
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Corporia RPG
Publisher: Brabblemark Press
by Andrew P. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/16/2014 00:24:45

Originally posted at http://screenmonkey.blog.com/2014/03/16/review-corporia
The basic premise for the game is that in a dystopian future the knights of the round table are coming back, being reborn in the bodies of modern people. Unfortunately, their return has also unleashed the Flux, chaotic energy that allows not only the reawakening of magick but also the warping of otherwise normal people into dangerous monsters. The players can be members of one of the knightly orders from Arthurian times or just normal people touches by the flux and given abilities beyond the norm.

With a few minor exceptions the book itself looks great. Rather than having drawn artwork almost every illustration in the book is posed with real people, typically in action poses and using prop weapons, armor and makeup. There are a few examples where this does not come across well, notably in a couple of places where the prop guns are obviously toys painted black. Overall though I really think that the art is a strong point of the overall production.

The PDF also make strong use of hyper linking, both in the table of contents and throughout the rule section. Every link I tried worked perfectly, and there was also a form fillable character sheet at the end of the PDF, which I think more publishers should look into doing. Sadly, while the character sheet worked on the tablet I was using to read it, it did not while using adobe acrobat to read it on the computer. The index was also not hyper linked, but that might have been a design consideration, as multiple entries had both a GM and a player section referenced. The problems with the character sheet are being worked on by the publisher and will hopefully soon be fixed, as I think this is a great feature.

The world is a future extension of our own, where corporations have grown so powerful that they literally replaced the government in every meaningful way, imposing censorship and even going so far as allowing people to be sentenced to become wage-slaves for white color offenses, essentially working for the corps without any real choice in where they are assigned or any ability to quit. Corporations have also taken over law enforcement, and most games are going to center around the Knightwatch, the elite, super powered branch of the Watchmen, one of the PMSC (Private Military and Security Companies). The parent company is Valyant, who's CEO is the reborn Lancelot, aided by an AI called M.E.R.L.I.N. and Nemue, Merlins one time apprentice, also reborn. The Knightwatch answers directly to Lance Martin (Lancelot), and are tasked with stopping or destroying the supernatural threats that plague the city.

The flavor of the game is readily apparent throughout, with attributes being called Core Values, armor being called Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and the character sheet looking a heck of a lot like forms I've filled out at work in the past. The system is pretty simple, you have a Core Value added to a Skill and roll 2d6, keeping the higher die and adding it to your base to beat a difficulty number. Combat works almost the same, although instead of a static difficulty it is an opposed roll, with the winner either hitting or dodging/blocking. Damage is rolled based on the weapon and in the case of melee attacks the characters Strength score. Melee is still a viable option because many of the beings created by the Flux are more affected by iron weapons. Once damage has been rolled you subtract the targets armor and check if it is over their Mettle, if so they take a location specific wound, which gives them a penalty to actions using that location. Penalties are cumulative, but don't take affect until after combat due to adrenaline/flux infusion. Once you take wounds equal to twice your mettle you start having to make stabilization checks to keep fighting, and any additional wound put you into shock and out of the fight.

Characters are made based around archetypes such as the badge (cop), hacker, lister (celebrity), Knight Errent (reborn Arthurian knight), runner (parkour using package delivery), sorcerer, suit and thinker (scientist). Each archetype gives you a discount on a particular asset, which are the things that give you an edge and make you more than human, or just give you more clout or money.

There are two magic using archetypes, although there is nothing to keep you from using magic in most other archetypes, and eight schools of magic. If you have the assets to use spells of a particular school you can use any of the sample spells provided or make up your own with GM approval. You can only cast a limited number of spells per day based on your Magic core value, and casting more becomes harder and harder until you fail and have to recover for two rounds before trying to cast again. Modifying the existing spells is also as easy as adding 2 to the difficulty every time you increase the spells range, duration or number of targets. Magic using characters can also use wands to fire mystic projectiles that ignore armor and do damage equal to the characters Magick value.

Gear and equipment are pretty well covered, if slightly generic as far as weapons are concerned, and they get by with generic pistol, rifle and shotgun type entries rather than exhaustive lists of specific weapons. Weapon laws in the setting are such that even the Knightwatch are only allowed a pistol and one other weapon of choice, which will usually be a melee weapon of some sort. Since they are supposed to be some kind of cops this isn't a bad thing. There is also a listing of Augments, from the simple eyePhone contact lenses that pretty much everybody has to the cybernetic enhancements like muscle augments and dermal armor. Most permanent augments lower your ability to use magic, so it's more for the warrior types.

Overall I think this is solid game with a great setting, simple enough to introduce new players to but also complex enough to keep players coming back. There are several scenarios included that can be used to give the game an overall story arc and are designed to be interspersed with your own missions. The GM section is useful and adds elements to the game that are not apparent from the player section, the characters are varied enough to keep things interesting and also evocative of the setting. Highly recommended for the unique setting and a solid game system.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Corporia RPG
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Mutant Chronicles 3rd Edition FREE Quickstart
Publisher: Modiphius
by Andrew P. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/06/2014 21:18:08

Originally posted at http://screenmonkey.blog.com/2014/03/07/mutant-chronicles-3rd-edition-beta-test-5-0/

The setting is actually earlier than the previous edition, taking place mainly in Luna City, a sprawling city covering a good portion of the moons surface.  The intro scenario takes place a day after the discovery of a strange tablet on Pluto which unleashes the forces of the Dark Symmetry.  The game is all about big guns, big shoulder pads and creeping horror as well as the unreliability of advanced technology.  It is billed as Diesel Punk Techno-Fantasy, with larger than life characters facing down the forces of darkness, usually involving lots of cinematic action. 

The game system is 2d20 roll under, with each die being considered separately.  Target numbers are always based on an Attribute+Skill with harder actions requiring more successes.  Any roll under the difficulty is a success, and you can add as many extra dice as you want with the caveat that every die added to the roll gives the GM another point of Dark Symmetry, which can be used to activate the bad guys special abilities, cause your tech to malfunction, or generally mess with the PC's.  Skills have two parts, expertise and focus.  The expertise is added to your attribute to create your target numbers, and any die that rolls under your focus counts as two successes. 

Damage is handled on a per location basis for minor wounds, but you have a single pool once you get to severe and critical injuries, which start to create penalties for future rolls.  There is also a mental damage track, and mental damage can be from things like finding an eviscerated body to the horrors and hallucinations that can be caused by some of the creatures associated with the Dark Symmetry.

As far as the setting goes, humanity has ruined the Earth and has spread out to the rest of the solar system with the aid of/under the thumb of the six remaining major corporations.  Freelancers are also a big part of the setting, being people who have split with the corporations but have skills which still make them useful, as well as being expendable.  Many people live in squalor at the edges of civilization, with little skill and no likelihood of ever advancing beyond factory work for just enough to live on.  The PC's are larger than life personalities with the skills and the will to fight against the Dark Symmetry, and are not expected to retire peacefully.

Overall, the system looks decent so far, although the focus on attributes may hurt it, since anyone who is good in a single attribute can get a smattering of skills at a low level and outperform others, while a low attribute will require a large investment to make a difference with a related skill.  This could lead to cookie cutter characters, but we'll have to wait for the character creation rules to know for sure.

The included scenario is solid, with an introduction to the universe and the horror of the setting, and leaves enough questions unanswered to lead the characters into the first scenario in the full game.  It takes place in a mostly abandoned and partially demolished tenement where the characters are sent as part of Luna PD.  It is a time dependent location, with things changing rapidly from a fairly simple investigation to a horror scenario where the characters can't trust their own senses.  Every location is given three descriptions, for the start of the game, to a mid point where things are getting weird, to the endgame, which evokes a very 'Silent Hill' vibe. 

The beta is free, and they have updated it to include 6 pregens from the original 4, and added an audio reading of the intro fiction.  It's definitely worth checking out, even if you just steal the scenario and run it in another system.  It's very creepy and short enough to be run in a single session as a one shot or it can lead your players into your own horror games. Definitely worth the time to check it out, and I can't wait for the full game to come out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mutant Chronicles 3rd Edition FREE Quickstart
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Shadowrun: Digital Tools Box
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Andrew P. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/02/2014 16:03:17

(Originally published at http://screenmonkey.blog.com/?p=21)This is the digital version of the upcoming beginner box set for Shadowrun, 5th Edition and the Runners Toolkit: Alphaware set.  Included with the purchase was a coupon set good for $5 off a physical copy of the Beginners Set, $10 of the Runners Toolkit: Alphaware or $20 off both as a preorder from Battlecorps, the Catalyst web store.  So if you are planning on getting both sets you can basically consider this to be a somewhat free preview.

Except for the dice, these two box sets contain everything you should be getting in the boxed sets.  The Beginner Box includes The Edge of Now, an excerpt from the 'Life in the Sixth World' chapter from the core book, fronted by a new piece of short fiction.  It also contains the already freely available quick start rules and five complete sample characters, as well as an excerpt from an upcoming Shadowrun novel, Fire and Frost.  The last piece of content is the booklet for Ms Myth, one of the sample characters.  It contains basic information on how to run the Troll Face, how she would normally react, what's important to her, and how she would normally do her job.  For someone new to Shadowrun this last part might be the most valuable thing in the box.  Anyone can figure out how to run a combat specialist or mage based on previous experience with RPG's, but running a face might be a little difficult to get a handle on right at the beginning.  The booklet is partially player resource, part GM, as it also includes the bones of a solo run geared towards the characters particular skill set.  In this case, it's a basic extraction, something else a lot of people are not going to have experience with outside of Shadowrun.  The solo run is incredibly basic and shouldn't take more than a couple of hours to run, but can be a good basic intro to the basics of Shadowrun.

The second part of the toolkit is the Alphaware section.  This includes regular character sheets for all five sample characters from the basic box as well as four more booklets with everything that was in the Ms Myth booklet from the basic set, including the sample beginning runs customized to each character.  In general, each framework puts the individual characters through the paces of their chosen archetype, including such tests as repairing drones for the Rigger, Hacking for the Decker and of course some combat for the Street Samurai.

There is also a map of the sixth world version of North American and a poster, A GM screen insert with some useful tables and summaries of the sample characters, as well as two other Booklets.  These are the Rules of the Streets and Plots and Paydata.

The Map is useful to show newer players how the world is divided up at this point, although it could have benefited from being color coded to allow an easier time of explaining the political boundaries.  The GM screen is really just two pages, one the character summery (something I plan to steal for my own games) and a page of tables from the core rulebook.  These tables are the Ranged and Melee combat modifiers, including visibility and defense modifiers, Perception tests and basic testing thresholds.  Also included are a list of the most common actions and spellcasting summary and a combat turn summary.  In all, it's a useful item, but I hope the full GM screen is a little more thorough (I know it's already out, but I don't have a copy yet).

The Rules of the Street booklet is the one I was most looking forward to, and the main reason I'm thinking of picking up a physical copy of the box sets.  It condenses all the info from the core book down to a 90 page booklet.  It removes character creation, fiction and a lot of details about the setting, but has all the core rules laid out in an easy to reference fashion.  It even includes a full gear section, something that many booklets of this type neglect.  Since one of the parts of character creation that always takes the longest is gearing up, it would be nice to have a second copy of this part of the core book at the table.  I'll probably still bring my core book to the table, but this will be what I actually reference. 

The next item in the box is the Plots and Paydata booklet for GM's.  This includes advice for game mastering Shadowrun and six different adventures fleshed out to show the basic concepts and run types the characters will normally face, from combat and surveillance to infiltration and extraction.  These are all fairly basic and should be able to be run in a single session, but can easily be beefed up to run over several sessions.  The booklet also includes NPC's and descriptions of the maps that are also part of the set. 

Speaking of maps, these are fairly detailed single page maps that have both GM and non-GM versions of each of the eight maps.  Some of these are reprinted from Sprawl Sites: North America, but others are new to me (or are in a book I never got, which is quite possible)Nothing really remarkable, but they make good generic maps and play aids.  The included maps from sprawl sites are  Low Income Tenement Housing, Train Station, Barrens Block, and Gambling Den, with the ones I haven't seen being Luxury Hotel, Dowd Street, Parkview Advance Research Complex and Kondorchid Facility

The last real piece of the box, and the one I am most disappointed in, was the cards.  There are 110 individual cards in the box set, but several repeats.  The spells are nice to have, as long as you already know what they do, as they only include Type, range, damage, duration and drain.  There are basic descriptions of each spell, but the full game rules normally wouldn't have taken much more space.  You get two of each spell card, of which there are 16.  As far as weapons, there are 19, three of which are the Ares Predator V.  Two of the weapon cards, the sword and Browning Ultra Power are also day-glow yellow, although I think this was an error, hopefully one that will be corrected before final printing.  There are four firearm accessory cards, 9 armor card (3 each of the lined coat and armor jacket) and one armor mod, 6 Commlinks (Including a double of the Renraku Sensei).  There are also 4 decks (nice to see pictures of these),12 programs (I'd like to see a complete deck of these actually, as they are one thing that can be switched around a lot on a run), 2 drones the Rotodrone again being that hideous day-glow yellow, 4 vehicles, again with the bulldog van being day-glow.  There are also 7 other pieces of common equipment, including slap patches, goggles and ear buds.  The med kit is once again day-glow.  The last ten cards are cyberware, including arms, legs eyes and ears with various mods loaded to them. These ones I really think are hard because they are so individual, but they did a nice job of giving the standard options a lot of people choose.

Overall, I liked the presentation of most of the box sets, and will probably use my coupon for Alphaware at least, although I might spring for both.  The low spot was the cards included, So I will probably make my own rather than use the provided ones, but the starter characters and the rules summary books I think are a really good value for someone trying to get their friends to play.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: Digital Tools Box
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Shadowrun: Fifth Edition Core Rulebook (Master Index Edition)
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Andrew P. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/15/2014 16:43:07

Originally published at http://screenmonkey.blog.com/2014/01/15/review-shadowrun-5th-edition/

Shadowrun was my first cyberpunk game I ever heard of. Before that, I didn't even know the genre existed. It was in Second edition when I first heard about it, and I have been following every edition since then. So it's no surprise that as soon as I heard that they were making a new edition I was hooked.

This review is of the PDF version mainly, although I have not yet found any discrepancies with the my physical copy.

The PDF clocks in at 489 pages, including a 5 pages table of contents, 6 page index, covers, art pages and some consolidated tables and character sheet at the end for another 14 pages, and 3 pages of adds for tie in video games. This leaves a total of 461 pages of content. Bookmarks are well done and pretty complete, and the ToC is hyper-linked to every subheading I tried.

The artwork ranges from decent to good, with a few full page pieces and quite a number of half page pieces as well. The art rarely detracts from the book other than in a few places where it doesn't reflect what is written on the page (Two notable exceptions are the Combat Mage Archetype, where the picture is of a troll but the metatype says human, And the splash art for the Rigger fiction, which shows an Ork driving and the rigger in the passenger seat).

Speaking of the fiction, there's some at the start of every chapter. These are short pieces that highlight what the section is about, and are pretty well written. They evoke the setting as much as the individual sections, and will hopefully get any prospective GM thinking about situations to put their players in.

The game system itself is well explained, with good examples in sidebars. You do have to hunt around for some things that could have been better organized though. Limits and drain resistance tests are two of the things that should have been better organized, as the only place I've found where the calculations for them are not where you'd expect them to be. The limit calculation is at the end of character creation when filling in the last little fiddly bits, and the drain resistance stats are sidebars in the magic section, where traditions are explained. Not deal breakers, but both could have also been explained in the appropriate sections of the text for redundancy without hurting the overall document.

The section on the state of the world at the beginning of the book is relatively short, only 23 pages. But it covers a wide variety of topics and gives the broad strokes of the world without spending a lot of time on it. It's missing a lot of the history that came through in previous editions, but I can forgive that as it was more concerned with explaining the way the world is in 2070 rather than how it got that way. It covers the major players in the corporate world, goes over extraterritoriality (one of the cornerstones of the game world), and the day to day life of the average person.

Character creation has brought back the priority system, with the give and take that it entails. You can still min-max to a degree, but characters seem to be a bit more balanced overall. It introduces a couple of wrinkles from the old version by adding in 'special attribute points' under the metatype heading. These points are spent on things like magic, resonance and edge. the higher up the priority is, the more points you have to spend.

Magic, the matrix and riggers get their own chapter, although riggers seems to be a bit short as it mostly works off the same rules as the matrix, and really only the differences are highlighted in that chapter. Magic got a big boost in this edition, separating out alchemy, spell casting, summoning and rituals all as distinct ways of doing things. I particulary like how rituals are completely distinct from spell casting, and not just a way to cast spells without a visual link like in previous editions. The rituals actually feel like rituals that might take hours to perform. It still allows you to cast those combat spells at a distance, but it also allows for healing and protective circles that last for hours or days without the need to be sustained, and a couple of other neat affects like summoning watchers and homunculus that don't really fit in the regular summoning rules. Alchemy allows you to put a spell into a physical form to be used later, and allows you to prepare ahead of time spells that you want to be able to cast and allowing you to resist drain before going on a run. Adepts are back and receive a decent treatment, but really don't seem to change all that much between editions. Which is a shame, because I'd really like them to get a fuller look than they have in the past. Theoretically they should be able to excel at anything, and the idea of the adept decker just makes me smile, even if he does give up a bit of his magic to get the datajacks.

Combat has changed a bit from 4th edition, with characters getting an action at their initiative on the first pass, then subtracting 10 from the initiative and everyone who still has a positive initiative getting a second/third/etc action. They've added in some changes that can affect your initiative as well. Whenever a character elects to dodge, block or parry they subtract 5 from their initiative but get to roll more dice for defense, for that one action only. You can also reduce init by 10 to add your willpower to your defense rolls for the rest of the combat turn (especially good idea for squishy mages and deckers with decent willpower).

The matrix section brings back the Deckers and decks. Commlinks are now useful, but unable to perform illegal actions like decks can. Netcops have also gotten worse, and every decker and knows that it's just a matter of time before they stomp on you. Luckily, they are more like a fire and forget missile, and once they've bounced you from the matrix they don't bother following up other than forwarding your location to whoever you were trying to hack at the time. This works by giving you an overwatch score that starts as soon as you do something illegal, even if the target didn't notice it. It also goes up over time, and once it hits a certain level they drop the hammer. They hit your deck, possibly frying it, and dump you from the matrix. There's no roll to resist this, it just happens. Technomancers can get this especially bad, as instead of frying their deck they get knocked out or killed by the feedback.

In all, I have to say that I like the new edition of Shadowrun a lot. I'm a not a complete fanboy, and there are parts that irk me, but It's a solid new edition and the publisher seems to be committed to the line and releasing new material.

Pros: Good looking book, solid mechanics and fiction gives a good feel for the universe

Cons: Some organizational issues, history is missing some key points of cannon from previous editions.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: Fifth Edition Core Rulebook (Master Index Edition)
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