Shadows of the Beanstalk
So super quick review, as I'm still digesting what I've read.
The introduction is pretty much what you'd expect, though I did appreciate the section on what tomorrow looks like. Gives you a good feel for themes right off the bat.
Character creation is good though it requires the Genesys core rulebook. There are six archetypes and ten careers. Each of the archetypes has a fun ability that separates them from the others. The clone in particular has a pretty good special ability that is very situationally useful, but not so overpowering as to be game breaking. Something I really liked is the why play a x section on each archetype. While there are ten careers they also have advice on creating a new career if nothing fits what you want to play.
There are some really fun and new talents. I really like how they added some talents that allow you to add some history to your character, like World Wars Vet, which adds a skill (two to choose from) and gives you a small favor from a current or former member of a single country’s military. (chosen when you take the talent) There are different variations of talents like WWV, but each does the same mechanically, just with the different organization. It’s a small thing, that gives your PC some depth, and a cheaper skill that you might not have had from your career. The tier 5 talents are all really good, and flavorful. Master Plan, Ghost in the Machine, Trick of the Light, etc all have some really good effects, and are all worthy capstones in their own right. This isn’t to say the lower tier talents aren’t bad as there are fun things in every tier.
Speaking of favors, I really enjoy the favor system. It’s a bit more elegant than obligation from Edge of the Empire, but it functions in a similar manner. In essence it’s a mark someone has on your character that can be called in as the story needs. Conversely, your character can also gain favors, and can call them in as well. If you ask for too many favors, you can become unreliable, and it makes it harder to get or call in favors later. There’s also a simple system for leveraging your favors for gaining smaller favors without spending your big favor, or leveraging a smaller favor for a bigger favor.
Equipment section has some really good and flavorful items as well. It does suffer a bit from the whole corebook generic syndrome. Equipment ranges a bit from the mundane, to the exotic. There’s even a suit of power armor in the equipment. Cybernetics and genemods are the two ways to modify your character. Cybernetics tend to have a slightly higher payoff, but also lower your strain threshold. Genemods have fun options, but run the risk of permanently damaging your character on a failed integration roll.
Hacking, oh boy. So the hacking rules in Genesys, are functional but sparse. Given that this is an android sourcebook, and the setting for the “netrunner” card game, it was a given that the hacking rules would be a bit more robust. They look fairly solid, and they seem to make sense on the surface of them. I am a little worried that like Android’s spiritual predecessors the hacking might be a bit game slowing. I’ll know more later when we do some test runs to see how fast they go. It also has some solid advice on building net encounters.
The location section is pretty lengthy, and has some good bits in it for every district in New Angeles. I am glad I picked up the World of Android book as it really adds some depth to the lore, though it isn’t strictly necessary, I thought it helped out.
The last couple sections have some really solid meat and potatoes. Most of it isn’t exciting, but very useful. Lots of NPC’s, each one kind of gives you a better sense of the setting. Plus, having premade npc’s saves a lot of time setting up encounters. The final chapter is the game master part of the book, and has some really solid adventure building advice. Hints on how to depict life in the, to resolving social encounters. The adventure building section reminds me a lot of the old challenge/focus/strike shorts from L5R, which is a good thing. It lays out a primary goal, the challenges and the twist, and gives several examples. Then it talks about how to expand on those to provide a good adventure. Plus, it adds a bit about how to manage the pacing.
Overall, It’s a good solid start, and I really hope they add some expansions to this setting later on down the road. There’s a lot of material they had in the card game that isn’t even mentioned here, and would make for some good additions later on. I gotta say, I am as hyped for this as I was for Edge of the Empire, so I’ll be running this sooner or later.