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Book 9: Robot
Publisher: Mongoose
by Sean O. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/31/2012 10:15:38
I was disappointed with the book overall for a number of reasons.

The first chapter deals with building robots, but treats it more like generating a character than a robot on the assumption (which is carried throughout the book) that robots will be mainly treated as PCs, which isn't a valid assumption. But what really makes this first chapter seriously flawed (and IMO seriously hurts the book as a whole) is that the system is poorly explained, there are no examples of step by step robot building or worksheets showing the authors method and math (for example the confusion about whether arms and legs use up slots or provide slots, which is not clearly stated or indicated but after much tinkering it seems to be the latter, they provide extra slots). Had their been, I suspect the author would have realized that the math in some cases doesn't work... meaning you cannot always build robots given in examples with the system as written and need house rules to make them workable. Finally, the construction rules don't mesh at all with the vehicle design rules, so if a GM wants to create a large robotic vehicle or war machine, they're again back to house rules as to how to do this. I would have liked to have seen at least some rules covering "roboticizing" vehicles, small craft and even starships as this will almost inevitably come up.

Chapter 2 deals with playing a robot as a PC, which as I mention above seems to be the default assumption through out the book (and perhaps why this was presented as another career book rather than a supplement). I don't have any major problem with this section (other than the numerous spelling errors which appear throughout the book), but I also didn't find it overly useful. Call that a personal bias, I prefer robots as equipment, not Allies. A robot as a PC or a NPC with a career might be interesting occasionally, but the bulk of robots in most TU campaigns will be neither of those things.

Chapter 3 offers careers for humans dealing with robots, but the presentation is clumsy. Rather than, for example, offering new specializations for Agents, Nobles, and Scouts, it lumps all three under its own career path with a common event table which doesn't always make sense. It does this with all the careers and offers not advice or explanation for using them with existing career types. Again, this is fixable with house rules, but really... we shouldn't have to be coming up with so many house rule fixes to make official material work with its own game system.

The next section deals with the "science" of robotics. There's more here on the robot brains (most of which should have been in the 1st chapter since its important in building a robot), there are also brief rules about custom designing robots and robot parts, which again I think should have been in chapter 1. At the very least the editor should have moved this chapter up to Chapter 2 since much of it is important to the actual construction done in Chapter 1. The later half of the chapter gets into hacking and then goes completely off topic into virtual reality and Neuromancer/Matrix like computer avatars and "cinematic" hacking which has nothing to do with robots (all of which probably should have been saved for a supplement on computers, virtual reality, etc. where it could have been fully addressed instead of "tacked on" here). The chapter wraps up with rules on robots powering down to save power which seemed to have been added on almost as an after thought to the chapter (and one wonders if a half page of rules on powering down were really needed vs other priorities... that is... which is more important, clear examples of how to build a robot from scratch OR rules on what happens if you leave your robot turned off for 10 years...).

The next chapter deals with swarms of micro bots, which again probably should have been covered in Chapter 1, or at least moved up to Chapter 3 since it also deals with a type of robot construction.

The next chapter deals with ideas about robots in society but unfortunately has the habit of tying how robots are viewed to TL rather than government type or cultural inclinations (which IMO would have way more to do with whether robots were viewed as tools, equals or demons than would TL). I found the section of robot religions particularly silly; given that most robots built in the book are not self aware and only have a slim chance of becoming self aware, giving space over to whether robots having belief systems and religions seems superfluous. It seems to have been more influenced by what the author was reading at the time and the idea of having robot civilizations, post human universes, etc.; than any thought to what most players might find useful in most OTU or ATU campaigns. Much of this chapter and chapter 2 could have been combined into single chapter and saved space for other things (some of the material is covered in both chapters).

The book wraps up by providing patrons. Although I didn't personally find them particularly useful or inspiring, someone else might so no criticism on this part.

I had hoped for a supplement that would give me solid construction rules for robots, including examples and worksheets (both the author's worksheets showing how they did it, and a literal work sheet I can copy and give to players wishing to create robots). I had hoped for a book that would allow for an "Engineer (Robots)" career building and tinkering with robots, as well as populating my OTU campaign with assorted drones, droids, bots and android servants. What I got was a book aimed squarely at robots AS PCs rather than equipment used BY PCs, and little of the countless mundane robots that likely exist to make human life easier in TU. This book, on the whole, seems to pull the focus off humans and other sophonts in the Traveller universe, and offers Robots up as equals or replacements. I found this disappointing and going in the direction of T:NE's Virus... and about as unpopular. If I had been the editor, about 25-30 pages of material (roughly a quarter of the book) could have been cut and replaced with examples of using the rules (which are completely absent and badly needed), more gadgets, toolkits, equipment, ship options and so forth, and more comprehensive rules which would have made this a much stronger product.

Running a spell checker and grammar checker would have helped as well.

Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Book 9: Robot
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Slayer's Guide to Amazons
Publisher: Mongoose
by Sean O. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/28/2011 22:52:33
The writing was a bit light (only 32 pages) so not as much as some of the other slayer's guides, but still useful.

The artwork however were very poor scans. Much of it was pixelated to the point you cannot make out the artist name or any text included in much of the art. For example the amazon pictured on the interior of the front (just before the table of contents in the sample) is little better than a pixelated blur and the text is completely illegible.

Having seen a hard copy, there is a four page "centerfold" that is completely missing from this copy.

I'd ask for a refund if I thought I'd get one, I was disappointed with the quality. Most of the other products in the Slayers guides and encyclopedia I've gotten were much better scans.

Should be marked down by 50% or the scans corrected IMHO.

Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Slayer's Guide to Amazons
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Arcane Lore
Publisher: Columbia Games Inc.
by Sean O. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/07/2010 12:53:50
The article does not provide any new information that hasn't already been printed elsewhere. The only thing new was some artwork. Given that this is a PDF file, at $4.99 I feel it is overpriced. At that price I expected some new material and at least an index with hyperlinks. On the plus side, the new artwork was nice.

So artwork gets 4 stars
Writing gets 3 stars (the quality of writing rates higher but the lack of new material and lack of any sort of indexing pulled it down in my opinion)
Price gets 2 stars

Overall I gave it 3 stars, average but not noteworthy

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Arcane Lore
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