It’s no lie, I love almost anything cyberpunk! For some reason, the genre always clicked with me. And when it comes to tabletop games, all the better! I’m no doubt a DEM fanboy of sorts, but their stuff is just that awesome. Without further ado, my take on their RPG, Neurospasta.
Loved Cyberpunk 2020, perhaps even D20 Cyberscape? Always wanted to run Shadowrun with the D&D rule set? If you said yes to any of these, DEM promises quite the game! Let’s see how good this program really is. Megacorporation hacking tips and review after the jump!
“The city… Archon, they call it. A mega-metropolis they would would unify the world. But I know better. I’ve been surveying the streets far before this city became the big thing. But now? I think I’m obsolete, washed up. What does this shining beacon offer me? Cosmopolitan ideals and revolutionized capitalism? Yeah right! I see a bleak future ahead of us.” – Detective Booker*, character for Neurospasta campaign.
*NO CONNECTION TO BIOSHOCK INFINITE
Welcome to the super-city of Archon! This is a land where the line between man and machine are ambiguous and flesh and steel run together in clockwork, or cyber tech! The setting is straight up cyberpunk, with elements of military fiction and spy fiction. The name, which easily reminds the target audience of the D&D celestial, creates an image of an all seeing being whose power separates it from mere mortals, to a status as Olympus. The eponymous city is the world’s biggest surveillance station, either garnering utmost admiration or the deepest fear. One could say that this would give the corporations and world governments the ability to watch over every triviality of the every day person. Now, given what has been going on recently, this is a very relevant topic and bravo to DEM for showing some balls in their writing! In fact, much of the political paranoia of an uncertain future is perhaps the game’s way of holding a mirror up to the actions of governments around the world.
Now, could you call this work “post-cyberpunk” instead of cyberpunk? Probably! In the introduction it even admits to subverting many of cyberpunk’s tropes. For example, the city of Archon is more ambiguous than most mega-cities, risking a dive into totalitarian extremes, but at the same time eligible for a more utopian future. Also, the city is quite clean and technology is a part of life, rather than the wretched hive composed of the classic cliche “High Technology, Low Life/Culture”.
The book contains several PF compatible bits to add to a higher tech campaign such as; 4 new races, some more modernized/futuristic class archetypes, and of course… new technological equipment! So, how does the game work mechanically? Let’s have a look!
Right off the bat, we’ve given a blurb on the history of Archon, the global conflicts and catastrophic events that lead up to its creation, and a pocket dictionary of the techno-jargon written throughout.
We’re also introduced to 4 technological races from a post-racial, posthuman setting in the appropriately titled chapter, “Birth.” These are: Nugenic (genetically upgraded humans out of GATTACA), Prosthetic (cybernetic humans in full, near-perfect suits), True-Born (fully organic humans), and Virtuant (fully sentient androids, sort of like the Replicants from Blade Runner). Each of them carry their own strengths and faults. Some are more suited for certain classes (and perhaps archetypes) than others, even having specialized equipment and add-ons.
And what would a D20 game be without classes and their skills/feats? Each of these classes ties into the setting, while being generic enough for science-fiction/cyberpunk inspired pathfinder games. Building off that, there are new rules for tackling hacking in a non over-the-top ’80s cyberpunk fashion, rife with “improbable technology”, as put by one of the classes. There’s even a full chapter dedicated to programming, with various Skill DCs on how to tackle this. All in all, these rules are a reasonable simulation of hacking and coding, while also pretty easy to tackle with a basic knowledge of the core system. Like in Pathfinder core, some classes are really well suited for certain classes and get bonuses for entering said class. However, that should by no means stop you from experimenting, with Pathfinder encourages a lot more than standard D&D 3.5 rules. To an extent, some classes mirror aspects of the Pathfinder core. The hacker’s exploits are similar to the spell casting of the mage and priest based classes in a way, for example. Like core, the Prestige class builds upon an aspect of the character’s development and allows them to perfect upon said area. Whether you develop into a superior human defense or the greatest guns expert around, this list of prestige classes has something to tackle your fancy.
In terms of skills and feats, there should already be a level of familiarity. If you’ve previously purchased Dias Ex Machina’s science-fantasy world, “Amethyst”, the “new skills” have already been covered. As for the feats, these provide methods of expanding upon for the cyberpunk aspects of post-humanism and hacking. Beyond that, the feats feel very similar to Amethyst and OGL wizards game, D20 Modern. The feats that stick out the most are probably the hacking and robotics feats, seeing as these don’t feel tied to previous information. The hacking feats are interesting, as they build on an aspect of cybernetic offense and defense in relation to building a character’s expertise.
Now, what would a DEM book be without an awesome arsenal? Like in Amethyst, we were introduced to new rules for incorporating different firearms, explosives, and the like into your games. This book is not that different in that regard, save for a few new rules incorporated in and some cyberpunk themed content including system defenses, cybernetic augmentation, and other purchasable aspects for both hardware and cyber-armory.
On an editing note, there still seemed to be a lot left over from the D&D 4th edition version of the game which is not compatible with the Pathfinder version. While it is very possible to get around this and convert it over, to have this in a finished product is more than a little frustrating.
Like in Amethyst, we get an assortment of baddies to throw against our protagonists. These range from terrorist fanaticals to destructive war machines. All of these supply potential hooks for conflicts in Archon.
And what would baddies be without adventure? The following chapters detail a tour throughout the city as well as adventures within the setting. Being a fan of the classics, the included sample adventure, “Dreams of Man” is not only a great introduction to the setting, but also a well crafted homage to countless cyberpunk works, especially the likes of crime dramas and mecha anime like Patlabor.
The setting is awesome, the content is too! Personally, I’m amped to use the mechanics for my balls-to-the-wall insano science-fantasy world of magic and technology (Think DEM’s other setting, “Amethyst”, but on crack and ’80s cheese).
Neurospasta for Paizo Pathfinder gets a 8.5 out of 10!