Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Review: Shadowrun - Sim Dreams and Nightmares

It's been a little while since I last did a review, but I've been reading a bit more again lately so I'll have more coming in the near future.

For this review we have the newest PDF only Shadowrun release, Sim Dreams and Nightmares (available as usual from DriveThruRPG.) Following in the lines of many of the other PDF only releases, Sim Dreams and Nightmares takes a single topic and gives it a nice expansion to flesh it out in the world. In this case we have the topic of Simsense, more specifically in the terms of simsense chips and related uses.

For those who aren't completely up on their Shadowrun technologies, Simsense is a tech that at it's most basic allows a person to live the experiences and sensory input of another in a situation. Mostly used in the entertainment area, simsense is popular in movies in that it can put you right in the action. Obviously it has also found a lot of popularity in the pornography industry as well.

Simsense at a basic level is completely legal throughout the Shadowrun world and is used by billions as part of their normal entertainment. However this supplement isn't dealing with that legal simsense. It's dealing with the darker side. Addictive sims, mood enhancers, BTLs (Better Than Life), persona chips and the like.

So what do we get in our PDF this time? Well we have 17 pages. These pages are broken down into

  • Cover page - 1 page
  • Obligatory JackPoint login page detailing upcoming files and some news from the setting (incidentally the date on this file is for 27 Dec 2074) - 1 page
  • Two short stories - 2 pages
  • Sinsense: The Ultimate Opiate (the meat of the supplement) - 9 pages
  • Game rules and prices - 4 pages
So onto the content of each part. The cover I quite like, and it illustrates the subject relatively well. On one half you have a well to do ork in his finest snow ensemble skiing down a slope in some lovely mountains. His ski outfit appears to be partially a white suit, with bowtie and it looks like there are some people chasing him lending the suggestion that he could be a Bondesque character. The other half of the images is of a down and out ork with a cable running to his datajack, making skiing motions while dressed in a garbage bag in among dumspters in some dark alleyway. It's pretty well executed and I'm quite fond of it.

The JackPoint is pretty much as standard. Two callouts for upcoming products (Parazoology 2 & Storm Front) and a couple of in universe news items. Also a mention long time JackPoint contributor Turbo Bunny who is trying to clean up from doing chips (which is relevant to the meat of the PDF.)

The two short stories are appropriate to the topic at hand, but in all honesty I had a little trouble figuring out quite what they were referring to. I'm not sure why, maybe I'm missing something. I'll have to read them again.

For the main bulk of the book the information is presented, as usual, as a file uploaded to JackPoint and commented on by regulars. The file this time is being presented by Turbo Bunny who is going through the cleanup process after her fall into addiction and back out, and doesn't get the easiest time of it from the other posters. (For more information on Turbo Bunny check out 10 JackPointers, another of the PDF only releases.)

It delves into how governments and corporations can use simsense to help control the populace. There is discussion on how some forms of simsense can contain mental massagers to try and subconsciously influence people, and also discussion on how simsense can help people for rehabilitation and to assist with psychological issues.

Then we get into the types of chips, the ones that can be abused more by individuals.

First up is Moodchips, chips that you can slot to help set your mood level. Next is more discussion on the most common BTL type of chip, Dreamchips (where you can live someone else's life effectively) and tripchips (moodchips with other programming enhancements such as slowing down your perception, introducing other sensations and the like.)

Personasofts are another of the chips touched upon, where you can overlay another personality onto someone. Want to pick what personality your girl has in that Yakuza run Bunraku parlour? Well pick your girl, pick the personality from the menu, slot and go.

The text also touches on the dangers of the common skillsoft, including addiction and the inability to use your own skills even if they are better than the skills you can slot.

All in all this section could be expanded a little more, but the shadowtalk really helps to flesh it out and drops enough ideas that most GMs will get something from it.

For the rules pages we are presented with a selection of new advantages and disadvantages for character creation related to drugs, addiction and the like. This is followed up with advance addiction rules and the rules for going cold turkey. Following that are the addiction ratings and thresholds for the various drugs in the Shadowrun world, from chemical and Bio-Awakened Drugs (BAD) to simsense and magical fetish related items. Finally we have a list of the prices for the various simsense drugs.

Overall I really enjoyed this supplement. The subject matter is an interesting exploration of a small part of the Shadowrun world and it is well written. The shadowtalk within the articles is actually of a higher standard than usual and overall very entertaining, even if we never find out what happened to the sheep (you'll have to read it to find out, but /dev/grrl can be single minded sometimes.)

All in all I think it's a buy for the flavour it can add to your games and some great background for the setting. 4/5 chipheads. (Available from DriveThruRPG.)

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Review: Delta Green Eyes Only

Delta Green: Eyes Only, is a book that has been out for a few years, but given that it has just been released in PDF format alongside the rest of the Delta Green books, I figured it was time to dig it out and give it a proper review.

Eyes Only is a collection of the original three Delta Green chapbooks released previously that were available only from Pagan Publishing themselves (see my other posting Delta Green Overview for more details on their release) plus a couple of adventures and a few appendices articles.

The three chapbooks that are reproduced here were all originally written by the excellent Dennis Detwiller.

  1. Machinations of the Mi-Go: this gives an excellent overview of what the Mi-Go are like in the Delta Green setting expanding considerably on the information presented in the main rulebook. (30 pages)
  2. The Fate: very detailed coverage on The Fate, a network/organization based on New York city that is intertwined with the worship and works of Nyarlathotep. This section of the book gives the keeper more than enough information to use The Fate in any game, on either side (because we all know Nyarlathotep isn't predictable.) This is definitely the best part of the book and is worth the purchase on it's own. (66 pages)
  3. Project RAINBOW: This is based around the so called Philadelphia Experiment that was performed on the USS Eldridge in 1943 in an attempt to make it invisible to radar. The Eldridge was in fact made invisible, using Tillinghast radiation, but it also travelled outside of our dimensions for 20 minutes. When it returned over half the crew were dead and it was hushed up. Unfortunately Majestic-12 is still experimenting with the technology in the present day. (34 pages)
On top of these three chapbooks that are reproduced we have 3 full adventures, the first two again written by Dennis Detwiller and the third by Adam Scott Glancy.
  • Artifact Zero is a full adventure for Delta Green agents around the events of Project RAINBOW. It is a very complex adventure but one that should be a memorable experience. If anyone wishes to run it there are some excellent resources on the web to assist in this. The Deep Background and Player Handouts both being very useful. 
  • A Night on Owlshead Mountain was originally published in the re-issue of  Eyes Only Volume 1: Machinations of the Mi-Go, and as you can guess is about Mi-Go in a mountainous area. It concentrates on a hermit on Owlshead Mountain in Vermont who has been enhanced by the Mi-Go using their protomatter and the search for some missing surveyors in the area.
  • Holy War is a scenario for experienced investigators concerning Delta Green, The Fate, everyone's favourite modern horror Y'golonac and New York in the months after September 11th as Delta Green wakes up to the new world they now operate in.
Rounding out the book are some small articles written by Dennis Detwiller and Shayne Ivey
  • A short article on policing in turn of the century New York, most of which was made obsolete in the months after September 11th.
  • Some miscellaneous, but very useful, short pieces on Delta Green tradecraft including
    • Green Boxes
    • Telephone Communications
    • Interrogation rules
    • Sanity costs for murder
    • Hacking
All in all this is an excellent book. It is very like all the other Delta Green books in that it doesn't have a specific focus, but this turns out to be a strength meaning there is something for everyone. Like every other Delta Green book published, this one is of high production standards with writing quality that every other writer and publisher would be proud to put their name to. Definitely a must buy. It is available in hardcopy or in PDF from DriveThruRPG (where it is currently only $14.99 for 266 pages of Delta Green goodness.)

Monday, March 4, 2013

Happy GMs Day

So today, March 4th, is GMs day. Started in 2002, it is now timed to coincide with the unfortunate passing of Gary Gygax in 2008, GMs day is the day to give back and say thanks to the GMs who make your games what they are. So reach out and say thank you and remember the work your game master puts into each and every session.

And if you like, GM and players alike, DriveThruRPG is having a huge sale with 25% off thousands of titles. Head over and pick something up for yourself or your GM.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

My RPG Collection: Shelves 3 & 4

So continuing where I left off on the series going through my RPG collection (this is partially for my own purposes, but some may find it interesting.) Part 1 can be found here.

Shelf 3

This shelf is pretty easy to cover, it's all Shadowrun. More specifically it's all Shadowrun editions 1-3. Shadowrun is one of those games where I'm a completionist. I haven't run the game in 10 years but I still buy everything for it because I find it so fascinating to read. In fact with my shift to PDFs recently, Shadowrun will remain one of the lines I buy in hardcopy as well just because I love it so much.

So Shadowrun editions 1-3. About 18 years ago I sold off my entire Shadowrun collection to a friend, which while it wasn't huge it was reasonable enough (edition 1 only.) I always regretted it and when 3rd edition was release I decided to start buying it again (I sold when I went to university and rebought when I started work and was actually bringing in money.)

I have managed to collect almost everything published for it now, though as you can see some are second hand and a little worse for wear than others. I am missing a few items from the first 3 editions, namely the hardback 1st edition rulebook, Prime Runners and the revised editions of Street Samurai's Catalog and Rigger 2. Smart eyes may notice on the larger image that my copy of Corporate Punishment looks a bit weird  that is because it is a print on demand copy from DriveThru as I couldn't find a regular copy.

Not visible here is the Denver box set which is too large for the shelf and is stored elsewhere.

Shelf 4

This shelf continues the Shadowrun theme with all the 4th edition and 20th Anniversary Edition books. I really like the two limited edition books I got, for 4th edition rulebook and the limited 20th Anniversary edition.

Continuing along and off Shadowrun we have a few books for White Wolf's Trinity line. This is one of those lines where I used to have everything (for some odd reason, I never read them) but sold the collection before my emigration as unwanted. These three books represent what I couldn't sell on eBay.

Next up, All Flesh Must Be Eaten. A fun game that I think a GM should spring on every RPG group once as a surprise. My group was surprised when I ran it as they hadn't even a clue what game system they were playing.

Rounding out the shelf are some of my Call of Cthulhu related magazines (the rest of the collection including the small format books are elsewhere.) The large format Unspeakable Oath's (missing issue 11 annoyingly), 4 issues of The Whisperer and the 6 English language versions of Worlds of Cthulhu.