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Publisher: Goodman Games
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/31/2006 00:00:00

Etherscope is a Victoriana-style RPG from Goodman Games. The zipped file is impressive in size, being just under 34 megabytes. It contains two PDF files: the main PDF, which is almost 30 meg, and a printer-friendly version of the same, which is a little over 23 megabytes. Both books have a hyperlinked table of contents, but only the main file has bookmarks.

The main file, which is 294 pages long, is rich in artwork. The covers are done in full-color, and all of the interior artwork, which is considerable, is in black-and-white. Each page has borders along the top, bottom, and sides. Interestingly, while the printer-friendly version eliminates the covers and the page borders, it keeps the interior artwork. Given the size of the book, this may present some problems depending on your printer.

The world of Etherscope is Earth, but with an alternate history. Near the close of the nineteenth century, etherspace, a parallel dimension, was discovered, and is the start of where Etherscope?s history diverges from ours. The energy of this new dimension led to a revolution in technology and sciences, and once etherscopes were made, allowing consciousness to occupy the other dimension (similar to an online handle in cyberspace), etherspace became a daily feature in almost everyone?s lives. However, what only a few people know is that etherspace itself holds a dark and terrible secret?

The book?s introduction opens with a bit of fiction, before launching into the history of Etherscope?s Earth. It also has a basic introduction to role-playing games, giving an overview of the system it uses, which is the d20 system (under the OGL) with a few differences from standard d20.

Chapter One covers making a character. As mentioned above, this is like making a normal d20 character with a few differences. For example, the standard fantasy races aren?t present here. Rather, you can be a pureblood human, or one of three transgenics ? humans who?re bred with animal genes for purposes of being laborers. The last race available is one of the fey, the ancient people of lost Lemuria. The available classes are different also, in addition to having less than ten levels each to better encourage multiclassing.

Chapter Two covers traits, which are most the selectable parts of your character that are chosen after creation. This includes things such as skills and feats. The skill system presented here is truly groundbreaking, having not only rules on common skills, but also occult skills, which are the basics for using magic in Etherscope. Things such as fighting styles, which are utilized with skill checks, are also covered.

Chapter Three deals with equipment. Not limited to merely weapons and armor, things such as vehicles and services are also detailed here. In addition, this chapter deals with cybernaughtics ? devices of steamtech, or ethertech, which can be grafted onto a person?s body.

Chapter Four is nominally titled combat, but really deals with anything involving bodily harm to a character. The majority of the chapter covers the mechanics of normal combat (though a new combat action, bind, is also discussed), but the rest of it deals with things such as environmental hazards and vehicular combat.

Chapter Five discusses Etherscope Earth at large. Geography is discussed first, with overviews given to the major power centers of the world, and then mention is given to various unexplored places. Aspects of society are also covered, naming influential power groups and the state of religion.

Chapter Six is dedicated to etherspace itself, along with interacting with it via etherscopes. The history of the discovery of etherspace is given in greater detail, along with further discussion of how it?s used in the modern day. Details of a scope city, where users congregate are given as well, before the chapter begins to discuss the mechanics of using etherspace. The most important of these is your scope avatar. This is the character that you are when inside Etherspace. It?s very similar to, but still different from, your actual character, in that their stats are altered while inside the virtual world of interlinked etherscopes (in effect, it?s very much like being in the Matrix ? to the point where there are even knowledge capsules that can be uploaded into your character to make them a sudden ?scope fu? master).

Chapter Seven discusses advancing your character, and after discussing the basics of level and multiclassing, gives thirteen advanced classes.

Chapter Eight deals with game mastering an Etherscope campaign. It starts out covering Challenge Ratings and Encounter Levels, and then moves onto discussing types of adversaries. In the world of Etherscope, there are only four creature types: Animal, Construct, Humanoid, and Outsider, though there are a few new subtypes. Several creatures of each type (mostly thugs for the Humanoid type) are then given. Finally, it discusses how to keep to the theme of Etherscope, and how to build your game into a campaign.

Chapter Nine gives two adventures to start out play in Etherscope. The first one, ?Analogue,? is an adventure for 1st-level characters to introduce them to the campaign setting, and is fully detailed as it leads them to the conclusion. The second adventure, ?Compound 13,? isn?t fleshed out fully. Rather, each scenario for this adventure is given as an overview, allowing the Game Master to customize the finer points as needed. The book then closes out with a blank character sheet, and a few pages of advertisements, along with the OGL.

All in all, to call Etherscope ?well done? would be to do a disservice to how excellent this is. Etherscope is Sherlock Holmes meets The Matrix, but maintains a feel that is distinct from its Victorian steampunk inspirations. It presents not only a new take on our world, but also the ethereal half-world behind it, presenting you with not just a new setting, but also new mechanics that perfectly take advantage of it. Players and GMs alike will enjoy looking into the Etherscope. <br><br> <b>LIKED</b>: This product presented a complete role-playing game unto itself, having diverse new rules that perfectly take advantage of its innovative setting.<br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: The printer-friendly version was odd in how it didn't remove the interior art.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Excellent<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Very Satisfied<br>

[5 of 5 Stars!]
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