Book Review: Sally Slick and the Miniature Menace

Sally Slick and the Miniature Menace returns us to the world of Young Centurions and to the adventures of Sally Slick and Jet Black, first seen in Sally Slick and the Steel Syndicate. This time around we get right into the action as Sally fumes over being shut out of the local tractor races. With the circus in town, Sally decides to race “unofficially”; of course, Sally leaves everyone else in the dust. After showing up the local bullies and drawing the attention of the circus owner, Sally’s prized tractor goes missing!

Author Carrie Harris turns out prose with precision and clarity, aimed at a teen audience with an adult reading level. Her action scenes left me breathless and her description of Sally’s and Jet’s perspective on their adventures plunged me back through time to the days when 100 yards worth of woods around the neighborhood drainage ditch sheltered ninjas and monsters aplenty. Add in a dash of the exotic by having the two of them literally running away to join the circus and this story becomes exactly the kind of adventure I always wanted as a kid. From my current perspective, many years and much hair removed, it’s an adventure well suited to the abilities and station of the characters. It’s only an evening’s read for an adult but I consider it time well spent.

“Miniature Menace” deftly sidesteps most of the issues I complained about in “Steel Syndicate”. The opposition is well suited to the characters; even the mysterious bad guys deal with the teens at their own level, and can be effectively fought in that way. My sole complaint of any substance is that Sally and Jet seem to have been shoehorned into this book when it really should have been a Mack Silver adventure. Their motivations for getting involved with the circus are painfully contrived but quickly superseded by Mack’s part in the story.

Much is made of Sally’s conflict with the local bullies, who don’t want a girl competing in their tractor racing. The Young Centurions series attempts to recreate the atmosphere of the 1910s, but both historical records and the literature of the time depict women and teenage girls as starkly independent and broadly capable, especially in the American Midwest. The emphasis placed on her unsuitability as a mechanic and racer because she’s a girl is oddly misplaced for the time period. The idea that the bullies are objecting to her participation because she’s a girl feels awkwardly forced.

Sally’s mechanical tendencies also create tension between Sally and her father in the early part of the novel, contributing to Sally’s decision to defy her parents and undertake the search for her tractor. Again, I found the basis for the conflict to be awkward and forced, as Midwest farm girls of the era were expected to contribute to the family and run every part of the house. On the other hand, I completely empathize with Mr. Slick’s inability to understand the thoughts and actions of his teenage daughter! It’s a tribute to Harris’ ability to involve me in the story that I felt truly concerned about whether or not Sally would be able to heal her relationship with her father. The denouement scene between father and daughter alone is reason enough to put this book on any parent’s or preteen’s reading list.

While it’s also an engaging adventure novel, Sally Slick and the Miniature Menace serves as a superior introduction to the world of Young Centurions. We get introduced to several of the main characters, a circus that provides a natural springboard for adventure, the idea of the Century Club, and a wealth of suitable opposition. The structure of the story breaks down seamlessly into scenes and encounters that form a bang-on model for a game outline. This is so good that I found myself wishing the text of the novel had been incorporated into the Young Centurions RPG book instead of being published separately. The RPG desperately needed something to tie it together, and dropping chapters of the novel in between portions of the RPG text would have a been a perfect fit. As a companion piece it goes from merely a satisfying read to an essential addition to the game book.

I really liked this book. It’s a great introduction to Young Centurions, involving far more of the cast than just Sally and Jet. I really don’t feel the title does the story justice, as this is predominantly Mack Silver’s adventure. The threat of the miniature menace seems tacked on as well, but by the time it became a factor I gleefully hand-waved my concerns away in order to keep turning pages. If you are a fan of any of the Spirit of the Century products, pulp fiction in particular, or YA novels in general then I expect you will enjoy this book every bit as much as I did.

Evil Hat’s Magic 8-Ball selected me as a reviewer for Sally Slick and the Miniature Menace and provided me with a digital copy of the book. I’m very much afraid that only motivated me to go ahead and pick up the print copy from my FLGS and spend a few bucks on DriveThruRPG to add it to my mobile shelf. When Sally and Jet pick up their next adventure, hopefully exploring yet another corner of the Young Centurions world, I’ll be waiting in the wings.

* * *

Winston Crutchfield reads far more than is healthy, but is attempting to compensate by foisting his favorite books onto his rebellious teenagers. He’s always open to discussion about books and looking for reading suggestions. He can be found on the Christian Geek Central forums as “MindSpike” or on Goodreads under his own name.

Book Review: Sally Slick and the Steel Syndicate

Sally Slick and the Steel Syndicate visits a 14-year-old Sally Slick in the years before she grows into her role as a Spirit Centurion. It introduces us to Sally’s fellow Centurion Jet Black and a host of supporting characters, both villainous and otherwise. The novel sets the stage for the Young Centurions RPG, from 1910-1916. The first time I read this book I was charmed and very impressed; the second time I was still charmed but more aware of the story’s flaws. It’s a good book, the content aimed solidly at a teen and pre-teen audience with high-school reading skills.

The story: The title promises a story centered around Sally’s conflict with the Steel Syndicate, but I think a more accurate title would be “Sally Slick and Her Marvelous Racing Tractor”. Sally’s older brother has gotten involved with the organized crime ring known as the Steel Syndicate, and when he falls into their clutches it’s up to Sally to rescue him. It’s the kind of adventure that every kid dreams of having, the one where you become invaluable to the people you look up to the most and they begin to see you in new ways.

The charm: The story evokes the feel of the classic Tom Swift novels, in which the teenage heroes are the only ones in the right place at the right time with the right technology to defeat the villains. Sally hasn’t really discovered romance, a boyfriend is someone who makes you feel funny when you hold his hand. The stakes of the adventure are serious, and Sally takes them on in a manner appropriate to both her age and her time period. It compares very well to The 39 Clues, another series about extraordinary young people. It’s the kind of book I consumed voraciously as a kid.

The writing: I blew through this book in an evening; it’s not really meant for adults. The writing is aimed at elementary and middle-school kids with a high-school reading level. The story construction is straightforward, moving from plot point to plot point with direction and clarity. Author Carrie Harris keeps things moving at a good pace, not skimping on the action but still giving the reader an opportunity to catch his breath. Kids with good reading skills will enjoy this book and kids with lower-level reading skills will find it both challenging and engaging.

The content: When I read this the first time, I was really impressed by the content of the book. The characters deal with situations in a manner appropriate to their youth and to the time-period of the setting. The violence has not been sugar-coated, but neither is it graphic. The language is mostly inoffensive, with one or two curses you won’t find on a kid’s TV show; I’d still be willing to read it out loud to my mother’s grandkids. Harris avoids any kind of awkward preteen romance, opting instead for a very naturally awkward interaction when Sally suddenly realizes her best friend is a boy! This is an adventure story, accept no substitutes.

Upon reflection: I spent a little more time on my second reading and still came away favorably impressed with the story despite a few flaws. The story lacks the agency of the Tom Swift novels. Sally spends most of the novel reacting to her circumstances instead of reaching out and changing things. It leaves the reader with the impression that this character is someone to whom things happen rather than someone who makes things happen. If the Tom Swift novels predicate action on the improbable, “Steel Syndicate” is built around the implausible. It’s easier to suspend disbelief in the Swift Repellatron than to believe an organized crime syndicate led by the ego-maniacal Steel Don would first pursue their quarry to the Slick farm over a grudge and then abandon their assault without suffering a single casualty.

The story also lacks the educational value of The 39 Clues. With the story so tightly focused on Sally and her problems, it leaves the reader no time to explore the world before the advent of the Great War. The world of 1910s America was radically different from what we know today. Kids had a great deal more freedom to come and go, but going long distances was much harder. Social attitudes varied dramatically according to geography, with huge differences between urban and rural areas. The close of the previous century and advent of the new one has seen an explosion of immigration to all parts of the United States, with a corresponding culture shock for Americans both new and old. The lack of modern refrigeration, widespread electricity, or portable communication presents challenges to modern thinking that were a part of daily life at the time. There is a missed opportunity here to challenge young readers with unfamiliar ideas and situations.

The verdict: This story structure has Sally rushing from encounter to encounter, only taking time between action scenes to gear up. It feels very familiar… it feels like a role-playing game session, which I suppose is intentional. RPGs are Evil Hat’s primary product and the Young Centurions RPG in particular has a very counter-intuitive play structure. This book actually describes the structure of a Young Centurions game blow-by-blow, even to the point where the villains “concede the scene” in the climax of the final showdown. New players and Game Masters could do much worse than emulating this story for their own sessions. It makes for a fantastic adventure game for any age group, but doesn’t really hold together as a story meant for adult examination; the less critically demanding young readership ought to be extremely satisfied.

I got my copy of Sally Slick and theSteel Syndicate from the original Fate Core Kickstarter, but when Evil Hat’s Magic 8-Ball selected me to review upcoming products, they also provided me with a digital version. I’ve already reviewed theYoung Centurions RPG; the next Sally Slick novel, Sally Slick and the Miniature Menace, is next on my list. I’ve really enjoyed Carrie Harris’ writing, and I’m looking forward to Sally and Jet’s next adventure. See you then!

***

Winston Crutchfield reads far more than is healthy, but is attempting to compensate by foisting his favorite books onto his rebellious teenagers. He’s always open to discussion about books and looking for reading suggestions. He can be found on the Christian Geek Central forums as “MindSpike” or on Goodreads under his own name.

RPG Review: Young Centurions

Visit a world of pulp action-adventure in the 1910s with the Young Centurions RPG from Evil Hat Productions. If you’re new to Fate or to the Spirit of the Century setting, this book belongs on your shelf. If you’re already familiar with either of those, take a minute to see if this book is going to add value to your collection before you jump on it.
In Young Centurions, you take on the role of a unique individual, born in the first minute of the first hour of the first day of the new century. You embody a Spirit of the age, an aspect of the new century that shapes your character with the positive energy of things to come. Shadows oppose you, those people born on the last minute of the last hour of the last day of the previous century, empowered by the energetic detritus of what has gone before. It’s not always easy to separate Spirit from Shadow in the confusion of the new century, even when it seems you’re all working toward the same goals. And oh yes, you’re all teenagers.
Young Centurions is the prelude to Evil Hat’s Spirit of the Century and Strange Tales of the Century, books that focus on adult characters of the 30s and 40s. Those books use the original Fate or Fate Core rules while Young Centurions uses the Fate Accelerated rules. Characters in Young Centurions tend to be less powerful, less capable, and more vulnerable than adult Centurions, both because the rules of the game provide fewer powers and because, well, you’re all teenagers.
That emphasis on the characters as teenagers dealing with unique teenage problems is one of the strongest aspects of the game. (Fate pun…) We’re not talking teen angst here; the responsibilities of teenagers involve personal and family matters far more often than issues of society.
Adult heroes make decisions that impact the world at large in ways that shape the events of society as a whole. Teen heroes make decisions that change their family dynamic and potentially jeopardize and hurt the people that matter most in their life.
The book does a lot of things right. It provides a set of character archetypes to use as a foundation, with aspect questions and stunt packages that quickly get players into the meat of the game. It explains the use of approaches with clarity and through the use of examples. It teases the flavor of the world with story snippets and plot hooks as a springboard for your game.
The GM chapter contains solid advice on gaming with teens as both players and characters, as well as tips on how to use the unique elements of the Young Centurions setting. The setting chapter gives us an intriguing glimpse of the world and just what role we’re going to play. Most important, the book makes me want to be a part of this universe.
Still, there are things that I wish Evil Hat would have done differently. I see no need to reprint the Fate Accelerated rules, not when they make the FAE book so readily and inexpensively available. Young Centurions does nothing to significantly change the rules; simply adding the setting-specific material would have been sufficient.
For all the intrigue generated by the setting teasers, the book leaves us completely cold when it comes to running the foundational elements of the background. The setting has no central conflict around which to build a campaign, though opposing agendas are implied between the Century Club and the Shadows.
The book leaves the GM with a great deal of work to do in order to construct a group template, including deciding the specifics of the supporting structure and writing up stats for the opposition. I wanted more details on the Century Club, Doctor Methuselah, and the Steel Don. I want to draw inspiration from that material for my stories; I don’t want to have to create everything from scratch.
I find only one critical fault with the book. Young Centurions games follow a story structure rather than a tactical structure, but the book provides no instruction on how to set up a game. This means you can’t simply stock a building with mooks and repeatedly kick down doors. You need to construct your game for narrative flow and problem solving. The Fate Core book includes a whole chapter on how to construct conflict scenes and tie them together. That instruction is absolutely essential to Young Centurions and its absence creates problems for GMs without a strong narrative background.
So I’m conflicted. I want to like this book. The premise appeals to me a great deal. It’s a fairly solid introduction to the world of Spirit of the Century. It’s self-contained, since it reprints Fate Acceleratedand does a pretty good job with the rules. It captures the flavor of teen adventure and preserves a spirit of optimism.
This is a setting for stories that I really want to read, but it’s also a game that I really don’t want to try to run. Story structure games put up a truckload of work for the GM and require a whole table of players that know how to effectively resolve conflict within a story structure. Spirit of the Century at least gives you the option to focus on the action scenes and talk through the rest without detracting from the game play.
At the end of the book, I find myself wanting more. I really think there should have been more background material and a chapter on game construction. At only 160 pages, there’s ample room to push the page count up to 198 and create a truly complete product. The price point is good, only $20 for a full-color hardcover – half that for the PDF.
It’s a great introduction to Fate and the to Spirit of the Century setting. By the same token, if you’ve already got Spirit of the Century or Strange Tales of the Century this book adds very little to either rules or setting. Even if you’ve already got the Fate rules in one form or another, this book adds some nice new mechanics and just barely enough flavor to make Young Centurions worth the purchase.
My copy came from the original Fate Core Kickstarter, though when Evil Hat’s Magic 8-Ball selected me as a Young Centurions reviewer they also provided a digital copy. They have also requested reviews of the two Young Centurions novels: Sally Slick and the Steel Syndicate, and Sally Slick and the Miniature Menace. I read Steel Syndicate back when it was first released and loved it; I’m looking forward to reading it again on my way to the Miniature Menace ARC. See you then!

***

Winston Crutchfield reads far more than is healthy, but is attempting to compensate by foisting his favorite books onto his rebellious teenagers. He’s always open to discussion about books and looking for reading suggestions. He can be found on the Christian Geek Central forums as “MindSpike” or on Goodreads under his own name.

Behind the Walls

behind the wallsJust to be clear…. This is supposed to be a prison game. Your characters are hardened convicts surviving in a self-contained and self-sustaining environment that happens to have been ideally placed to survive a 1951 nuclear apocalypse. But great pains have been taken to remove or de-emphasize those story elements that characterize not only stories about prisons, but the way prisons function in real life. To be specific, this setting does its level best to ignore or downplay: gang violence, prison rape, segregation, and racism (p. 2). These are the prime motivators of tension in this kind of setting, instead the text encourages themes exploring claustrophobia (p. 5) along with “institutionalism, culture, and aggression” (p. 23).

So what’s left? The text encourages characters to introduce tension in the form of gender identity and orientation, while in the same text block they state a desire to avoid the issues of sexual assault and homophobia (p. 2). I’m not sure how to do that. Tension in the setting is meant to primarily originate between players, and there is a system introduced for managing a set of secrets that players are to keep from each other. There is further tension between the primary gangs of the prison, though we are reminded that proper development of this tension isn’t supposed to be predominantly violent, but it is supposed to be aggressive. Again, I’m not sure how that works. There is also some tension between the guards and the inmates (your players are all inmates) that is meant to thematically reflect two political superpowers.

Observation 1 – the system for keeping and revealing secrets depends heavily on the players introducing tension within the party. That formula isn’t going to work for every gaming group; it certainly won’t work in my gaming group. Even without that requirement, the system is mechanically weak and relies more on improvisational storytelling than it does on game theory. Observation 2 – though stating a desire to remove certain tropes of the genre mentioned above (p. 2), the trope of guard corruption has been retained. NPC guards are exclusively described as “routine” (read “apathetic”), “hostile”, or “lazy” (p. 16-17). The warden is described as “tired” with aspects that depict callousness and greed (p. 35).

Verdict? This is a setting for a very specific group of gamers. I am not one of them; I have a few issues with the setting. The guards and the law enforcement structure are depicted as corrupt, brutal, and ineffective in contrast with a prison society that is trying to keep order. This inversion of both reality and storytelling convention offends me a great deal, but I’m willing to chalk that up to my personal experience as a former law enforcement professional (specifically, a prison guard). If I wanted to explore prison themes in a game at all, the mega-cities of Judge Dredd do an excellent job of developing those kinds of stories while still providing a broad scope of action.

My main criticism is that there is no tactical game here. This setting is all about interpersonal drama, and I have no interest in exploring the themes of gender identity, aggression without violence, or prison culture; these themes are also explored in artwork that is both suggestive (p. 36) and explicit (p. 20). The mechanical material is under-developed; I can’t even lift the mechanics of the setting out and use them in a different prison-themed game. Only gamers with a specific interest in the thematic material and who emphasize storytelling over game play will benefit from this book.

Atomic Robo the RPG

DSCN2170Atomic Robo premiered in 2007 as a six-issue mini-series, quickly gaining a cult following and branching out into the two ongoing titles “Atomic Robo” and “Atomic Robo: Real Science Adventures”. The story chronicles the adventures of Atomic Robo, a self-aware mechanical man created by Nikola Tesla. Each story arc focuses on a different era in the life of Robo, beginning in the 1920s and continuing to the near future. The stories imitate the pulp action novels of the 30s and 40s, with a healthy mix of Tom Swift in the recipe. Robo’s foundation, Tesladyne, employs “Action Scientists”, which pretty much sums up the book’s approach to storytelling. Recurring antagonists include Dr. Dinosaur (an intelligent deinonychus) and the ghost (phasically fluxed corporeal entity) of Thomas Edison. The creators premiered a free webcomic release for the entire series in January 2015 as a promotion for the tenth volume of the series, “Atomic Robo and the Ring of Fire.” The creators are currently running a Patreon campaign to continue support of the Atomic Robo comic.

Evil Hat Productions produced the stand-alone role-playing game in 2014 with the involvement of Atomic Robo creators Brian Clevinger and Scot Wegener. The system is based on their Fate Core product, but includes the full rule set in the Atomic Robo book. No additional books are needed.

DSCN2171High Concept: Atomic Robo and the Fate System should never be separated. The book series emphasizes fast action with improbable stunts, starkly astounding science, and zippy banter that proves inevitably ironic. The role-playing game uses Fate’s variable attributes and flexible stress track to force game structure to imitate art. Characters tag their aspects and spend fate points to influence the story and make themselves more successful. When it’s time to break out the action science techno-babble, the elaborate challenge system for Brainstorms enables players to break out the dice and gabble away with a reasonable chance of inducing a variable phase flux field in the transphasic modulator simply by reversing the polarity of the power coupling and aligning the rheostat 90 degrees to reality. And if that doesn’t work, a good, solid punch usually does the trick. This is the kind of thing at which Fate excels.

Trouble: As with all Fate games, Atomic Robo requires massive amounts of buy-in and creativity on the part of the players. On the spectrum of role-playing games, Pathfinder would be on one end as a technically detailed tactical tabletop simulator and Fate occupies the other end as an exercise in group storytelling. There is a limited amount of tactical gaming in the system, enough to satisfactorily handle a fight between Tesladyne action scientists and the men in black of Majestic 12. Atomic Robo as a game theme lends itself as much to wacky ideas and radical puzzle solving as it does to rock-em-sock-em … fight scenes. Fate is really a pretty good match for the setting.

DSCN2172Phase Trio: The production value of the book is phenomenal. It’s printed on high-quality, thick stock, glossy paper in full color with a satin matte cover finish that’s so smooth to the touch. It contains the entire rule set for the Fate System, so no extra investments are needed. Every section is fully illustrated using panels from the Atomic Robo comic with the characters appearing in bubbles as if they’re playing the game and voicing over the panels. It’s priced at $35, weighs in at 300+ pages, and is the same shelf dimensions as the graphic novels so that it looks really nice next to them on your bookcase. The PDF loads quickly without any heavy background graphics and sells for only $10 on DriveThruRPG. Plus, Evil Hat is a member of the Bits & Mortar movement, so if you buy the book from your friendly local gaming store the publisher will send you the PDF version for free. My one real complaint with the production value is that a book this size really should have been a hardcover volume.

Success With Style: If you’re a fan of Atomic Robo or pulp science adventure in general, this is a fantastic treatment of the genre. The book lends itself well to adventures in the style of Gil Gerard’s Buck Rogers, Tom Swift, or Doctor Who. If you have any kind of interest in this genre or in the Fate System at all, this book is a superior treatment of the system over the Fate Core book, though you may still benefit from the Fate Toolkit. Action role-players to arms!

Freeport: City of Adventure (Revised)

DSCN2098Freeport has been Green Ronin’s signature setting of pirate adventure and Cthulhoid madness since the early days of the d20 System boom. The setting launched with the ENnie award-winning adventure “Death in Freeport”, and has seen several other adventure modules as well as multiple setting expansions centered around the flagship title “Freeport: City of Adventure”. In 2006 the setting went “system agnostic” with the publication of the “Pirate’s Guide to Freeport” which contained no system stat blocks at all. This book was followed (slowly) by a series of “Freeport Companions” for different systems, all containing similar information tailored to different game systems. At this point, the line includes companion books for True 20, 3rd Era (d20 System), Savage Worlds, Pathfinder, and Fate.

In 2013, Green Ronin funded the production through Kickstarter of a single massive tome combining the Pirate’s Guide and the Companion material as well as a metric ton of new stuff produced just for the book. New monsters, new characters, and new adventures all drove the page count of this new volume to a whopping 544 pages, all of it written specifically for the Pathfinder system. The printed copy costs $74.99 if you can lift it. There are two PDF versions; the first is the whole book at $29.99 and the second is the player’s guide, lifting just the classes, gear, and spellcraft from the main book for 133 pages priced at $9.99. The big question is, “Is it worth it?”

DSCN2099If the premise of the setting appeals to you at all, the material is well-written with excellent graphic design. The book looks great. It includes rules for insanity and corruption that allow characters to sell a piece of their soul for increased power. All of the signature classes are revised to keep up with changes in the Pathfinder system, and the monsters are very evocative of the twin themes of pirate adventure and cultic horror. The adventure module is easy to follow and serves as an excellent introduction to the game. The stat blocks are easy to read, the classes are easy to understand, and the rules are all clear and concise. The technical writing on the book is exemplary in its expression of the setting and theme.

My one complaint is the setting material, which is presented in the same kind of dry, history textbook format that has dominated RPG design since the 80s. The city is divided into districts with details about the businesses and personalities dribbled in gazeteer style. The characters are all segregated into a single block of pages disconnected from the geographic locations they influence. It is mildly interesting reading if you’re researching in preparation for a game, but it doesn’t form any kind of coherent narrative at all. Even the historical summary at the beginning of the book is written as if it were an academic paper. At every point that the rules served to reinforce the themes of the book for me, the setting information did nothing to maintain it. As a GM resource, this is all-encompassing and complete. As player material, it’s really pretty dry.

DSCN2100So what do you do if you already have the previous books? (Not that I, um, know anyone like that…) Are the new monsters, characters, and adventures worth the hefty price tag? If you judge the book just on the new material, counting rules revisions as new material, maybe only 25% of the book cannot be found elsewhere. And of the revised material, much of it can be had from the player’s guide excerpt. This book replaces both the Pirate’s Guide and the Companion for Pathfinder, and includes quite a lot of material about the cults as well, without actually being a reprint of “Cults of Freeport”. The Pathfinder, True 20, or 3rd Era player will find much of interest in this volume. Unfortunately there is little to appeal to fans of Savage Worlds or Fate that cannot be had from other sources for a much lower price. For the completist, this volume is absolutely essential. For the casual fan, it’s more likely to be a PDF or player’s guide purchase.

Welcome to Freeport! Come for the pirates, stay for the cosmic horror!

Eagle Eyes

144754The concept of Roman Noir is not one that seems immediately natural to me, but this setting makes it quite convincing.

“Experience Roman noir firsthand in Eagle Eyes, the latest Fate World of Adventure from Pete Woodworth. Battle cynicism, corruption and murder in the shadow of the Coliseum. Play Eagles, the Senate’s private investigators, and use every means at your disposal to get at the truth behind everything from “ordinary” murders and robberies to high treason, noble intrigue, military coup attempts, and perhaps even the strange and terrible excesses of the Emperors.

Life is cheap and the dust of Rome soaks up a lot of blood, but the rewards for those that survive are beyond the dreams of lesser men.” (Publisher’s description.)

Battery PositiveThe book provides a decent overview of Roman life insofar as that information is useful to running a game and creating characters. The adventure builder is very nice for constructing a quick framework suited to impromptu noir tales, which typically take a good deal more effort. The flavored Fate Phase Trio provides excellent direction for the campaign as a whole and what the players want to get out of the game. Layout and readability is the high quality we’ve come to expect from Evil Hat.

Battery NegativeThis book attempts to center stories on the unraveling of conspiracies within the setting. Unfortunately, constructing a conspiracy or using it in a game as a current or impending issue is given no treatment; the conspiracy is simply described as stress track which the characters are attempting to take out in order to end the story – and few details are provided on just how that is accomplished. This book lacks either the focus of a directional campaign or the detail of a complete setting. Campaign advice may be summed up as “emulate this list of tv shows.”

Battery 3 barsThere are a few example adventures built using the generator, but they are only story seeds. Not bad, but I would have liked to seen them fleshed out. The art direction is heavily shaded and lacks detail. I suppose its evocative, but it’s not to my taste. Overall, I don’t think this book added anything to mechanics of the Fate system as far as using them in a noir or Roman setting, but I think it was more useful for running a Roman Noir campaign than simply reading the Wikipedia entries on the subject.

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