Cyberpunk drew deeply from the well of hard-boiled fiction, often called noir after the genre’s commanding presence in film noir of the 40s and 50s. William Gibson was directly inspired by Raymond Chandler, wearing this influence on his sleeve in the original “Sprawl” trilogy of Neuromancer, Count Zero, and Mona Lisa Overdrive. These influences didn’t quite trickle down into the original Cyberpunk roleplaying games, though, with Cyberpunk 2020 and Shadowrun more inspired by the techie bombast of authors like Walter Jon Williams and John Shirley, and their big guns, big hovercraft, and “fight the power” plotlines. There is a game out there designed for playing hard-boiled Cyberpunk stories, though. Technoir was originally released in 2011 after being funded on Kickstarter in June of that year. Though the game was released, the Kickstarter went fallow, leaving stretch goals undelivered and the game mostly unsupported. As of the beginning of 2019, though, this has changed. Justin Alexander, best known for his site The Alexandrian has, through Dream Machine Productions, brought Technoir back from the dead. The game is once again in print, and the undelivered stretch goal “Morenoir” has been completed and is now available. With all this activity, now is a perfect time to take a deep dive into this interesting narrative ruleset.
Monthly Archives: January 2019
Legend of the Five Rings: Emerald Empire Review
Simply knowing the rules for Legend of the Five Rings is not enough; even passing your gempukku and earning your place as a samurai in the Topaz Championship will not truly prepare you for the trials ahead. If one is to survive, even thrive, in the land of Rokugan then one must know Rokugan: its places, its people, its customs and history and spirits. So it is that Emerald Empire, the first major sourcebook for the Fantasy Flight Games’ edition of Legend of the Five Rings, has come into being. What’s actually within its pages? Is it worth getting yourself? I’m going through the book chapter by chapter to find out!
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Bluebeard’s Bride: The Book of Mirrors Review
A son learning the truth about his father, a father his mother escaped from. A teacher alone on the cold school grounds, caught between a marriage offer and the street. A ‘patient’ confined to the halls of the insane, questioning her own mind. A showgirl trapped among the carnival’s tents as surely as the locked doors of a manor. A guard finding herself locked up with the prisoners instead of them being locked up with her. Bluebeard’s Bride is a game of feminine horror from Magpie Games, wherein the eponymous bride finds herself wandering her husband’s home, experiencing the horrors within, and facing a terrible choice. When the Bride looks into a shattered mirror, however, her image splits and warps into something new. Such is what happens in the latest supplement for Bluebeard’s Bride, the Book of Mirrors!
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Adventure Log / Con Report: Level One Wonk’s First Arisia
Last weekend, I went to my first science fiction convention ever. I know, I know, hard to believe coming from someone writing on a gaming blog. Nevertheless, Arisia 2019 was my first sci-fi con, and it certainly won’t be my last.
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The Independents: Lady Blackbird
Every game of Lady Blackbird starts in the same place: The cold iron brig of the Hand of Sorrow. Five rebellious heroes are trapped in the uncaring grip of the Empire, with aspirations of freedom alongside the far-off pirate king Uriah Flint. The premise is exciting, but the genius of this 2009 indie darling really begins to show when your players take control of the crew of The Owl. Will they talk their way out of imprisonment? Can they break out with force? Perhaps the predicament requires a more uncanny solution—teleportation, shapeshifting, or summoned lightning. No matter what the party does, their choices will send your story spinning off into The Wild Blue.
Adventure Log: Masks: High Impact Heroics Pt. 5
It was like staring into a row of funhouse mirrors out of a nightmare. Every tank Sally ‘Spitfire’ O’Brien looked in held a body with her face. According to the readouts at the base of the tanks several were deceased, each corpse looking . . . warped, somehow, by the experiments they’d been subjected to, but an equal number had life signs in the green. CryptoHertz, Sabot, Calamitas, and White Coat (Showtime had vanished by now) all kept one eye on Spitfire while they spread out and looked at the tanks themselves, trying to understand. Plague Hack’s words – no, lies – and the video he had shown her – had to have been a fake – burned in Sally’s mind as she found herself standing in front one of the dead tanks. With a blood curdling scream she raised her fist and smashed it into the tank.
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The Yellow King Review
When we typically think of supernatural horror and someone mentions a Mythos, they are almost always referring to HP Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos, and all the assorted otherworldly monsters and non-Euclidean geometry that goes along with that. Fortunately, Lovecraft wasn’t the only author trying his hand at the weird and horrifying. Robert Chambers wrote a sequence of four stories, collected in a book entitled The King in Yellow. Taking place in two settings, contemporary (1895) Paris and an imagined future America, the stories of The King in Yellow center around a strange symbol, the Yellow Sign, a mysterious figure, the King in Yellow, and a written play with strange effects, also named The King in Yellow. Chambers’ stories are considered hallmarks of occult fiction, and even Lovecraft himself borrowed from Chambers’ work. As such, it only made sense that someone would give them an RPG treatment, much like the one bestowed upon Call of Cthulhu. Robin D. Laws wrote The Yellow King for Pelgrane Press using the GUMSHOE system, but gave special attention to Chambers’ style of mind-bending horror, and extended his worldbuilding a little bit. The Yellow King has not two but four unique settings included with the game, and each one has a slightly unique version of the game, tailored to the conflicts and conceits of the setting. What’s more, the game is set up to play a sprawling arc of weird fiction across all four.
A Glimpse Into the Vault: PAX Unplugged Edition
Today, we have a special PAX Unplugged Edition of A Glimpse Into the Vault, with a special roundup of board games of interest I came across at the con! Now, this is a little unfair, as this is a grossly cursory look at only some of the many games and vendors that were on display, but with the extensive number of products available I only had so much time and attention to really dig in. Luckily, I managed to get on the media list for PAX Unplugged, so I was fortunate enough to be solicited by a number of people interested in getting attention for their game, and from that I managed to schedule a slew of interviews about different games. We previously chatted with Brendan Conway about Unbound, the latest supplement for Masks: A New Generation, but today we’ll be tackling the board games I got to see in greater detail, and the creators who I had the chance to interview.
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Meet the Party: Shadows Over Sol
A technology-obsessed pilot, hacker, and engineer. A social butterfly who just so happens to be the ship’s medic. The crew’s fatalistic scout and security officer. An anarchist spy using a mechanic’s toolkit as a cover. None of them truly know what horrors await them out in the solar system . . . but they’re going to find out, because they’re a ready-to-play crew of characters for Shadows Over Sol from Tab Creations! Continue reading Meet the Party: Shadows Over Sol
Strongholds and Followers Review
The Fifth Edition of Dungeons and Dragons represented a return to form in many ways over the Fourth, and the merits of that from a rules perspective can be debated. What is not debatable, though, is that the closed-off approach to third-party material which Wizards of the Coast used in response to the d20 debacle of the 2000s went too far, and the return of the Open Gaming License for Fifth Edition is a good thing. Coming out of 2018, the largest tabletop RPG Kickstarter in terms of money raised was one of these third-party products, a supplement called Strongholds and Followers. Strongholds and Followers is the brainchild of Matt Colville, a designer with over two decades of experience in both the tabletop and digital realms. Strongholds and Followers is exactly what it says on the tin: rules for creating Strongholds and having Followers in your Fifth Edition D&D game. Colville’s rules are detailed and comprehensive, but the book harbors no illusions that, when implemented, the expansions from Strongholds and Followers will completely alter the power level of your game. There’s also more coming from Colville, a fact which can’t help but make its way into the book’s presentation and design.