[Review] Gatecrasher 2nd Ed.

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Alex Schroeder

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Jan 6, 1998, 3:00:00 AM1/6/98
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Review: Gatecrasher 2nd Ed. by Alex Schroeder, mailto:al...@zool.unizh.ch

Copyright (c) 1998 Alex Schroeder

I couldn't find a review using DejaNews, so I wrote one...

This review is posted rec.games.frp.misc and de.rec.games.rpg.misc; the
following paragraph is a short German introduction.

Ich habe Gatecrasher 2nd Ed. in den USA gekauft und nun eine Review
geschrieben. Da das Produkt sowieso nur in englisch erhaeltlich
ist, habe ich die Review nicht uebersetzt. Ich hoffe das stoert
niemanden. Deutsche follow-ups bitte nicht nach rec.games.frp.misc
posten!

Should the discussion deviate from the discussion of Gatecrasher, please
do not post to de.rec.games.rpg.misc.

1. Who am I
2. Buying it
3. Material
4. Rules
5. Setting
6. Hooks
7. Conclusion

1. Who am I

I am 24 years old, a student of biology and computer science, and I
have been playing RPGs for about eight years. I've played D&D, AD&D,
Das Schwarze Auge (German) and about three incarnations of my
homebrew system. I have used AMBER and FUDGE as an inspiration to
GMing, and I have occasionaly used Mutant Chronicles as an
inspiration for a Dark Future setting.

As a GM, I prefer few rules and a lot of improvisation. At the
moment I use a diceless homebrew system inspired by FUDGE to GM the
occasional fantasy session. I was looking for an inspiring,
light-hearted, and humorous source book for these occasional
sessions.

The web-site (http://members.aol.com/ghostgames/) contained an
adventure involving Santa Claus and his evil double, Santa Claws.
This suited my gaming needs: It was short, it was easy, it was fun.
I therefore decided to buy Gatecrasher 2nd Ed.

2. Buying it

I live in Switzerland, Europe. Ordering it was easy, the only
negative point being the post office's extra charge for the postal
money order: CHF 12.-, about $8. Gatecrasher 2nd Ed. itself cost
only $18.95. The total cost of about CHF 45.- continues to be a
normal price for a RPG in Switzerland. My copy of AMBER, for
example, cost CHF 48.- in a dedicated game store.

The Grey Ghost web-site carries a list of resellers, at least one of
them in Germany. Getting it through one of them might be easier or
cheaper.

I ordered my copy shortly before Christmas. Considering this, the
delivery was quick (about three weeks, including Christmas and New
Year).

3. Material

Gatecrasher 2nd Ed. has 208 pages, a soft cover and it is printed in
two columns. The font is easy to read, the print quality is good.
The art work is simple and from various artists; there are not many
pictures. The pictures usually revolve loosely around something
mentioned in the text (races, magic users, etc). The ones that I
remember best: some (funny) undead posing for a picture, and a genie
with cybernetic implants.

Orientation is facilitated with the chapter title at the top and
section title at the bottom of the page. The sectioning withing the
page itself, however, is confusing. Section and subsection titles
are all more or less of the same size and preceded by very little
white space. Examples start with "example:", optional rules with
"optional:" -- no other visual guidance (such as italics) helps to
distinguish the different categories.

A few quotes appear throughout the book. There are no margin notes.
A few gray boxes contain tables or additional information whenever
they might interrupt the flow of the text. The contrast between
background and text is good, they are easy to read.

The major blocks in the book are the following: There are 9 pages of
character races, 18 pages of supernatural powers, 16 pages of action
resolution and combat, including magic, electronic, and vehicle
combat. There are 23 pages of spells, 32 pages of technology, 16
pages of homeworld descriptions for players, and 19 pages of further
information for GMs.

4. Rules

The rules are a variant of the objective FUDGE rules. The FUDGE
subjective system is presented as an alternative. Spells have to be
mastered before they can be cast. Casting uses magic points. Magic
and Technology interfere with each other; therefore, strong magic
cannot affect hi-tech and vice-versa.

The rules contain a plethora of technological items and magical
spells, usually described with a small table and a paragraph of dry
text. I would have liked more pictures and spiced-up descriptions.
Compare the following two samples. I prefer the second type. Based
on the examples given in Mutant Chronicles, I can easily produce a
great number of similarly well-described items.

Gatecrasher: "Assault Rifle [table]. The assault rifle is an
inexpensive, rapid-firing rifle. Assault rifles are made to be
disposable, and troops stuck using them often feel that they're
disposable, too."

Mutant Chronicles: "M50 [table and large picture]. Although not the
best weapon in the assault rifle category, the M50 is one of the
most widely spread weapons outside the military forces, both
because of the numerous pirated copies and because of its
versatility. The grenades are loaded one by one in an internal
magazine holding six rounds. Stock can be folded."

5. Setting

The setting is the solar system which has gone nuts because of the
re-opening of a magical gate. The Santa adventure mentioned above is
a case in point: lighthearted and fun. Unfortunately this is not
really reinforced in the text.

The text is neutral enough to allow the GM to run a science fiction
RPG, but it fails to capitalize on the game's greatest asset, the
lightheartedness and humor.

The desciptions of items, homeworlds and spells are rather dry. The
GM section on the history and background of the planets and their
moons is rather matter-of-fact, too. The history is not very
interesting, as it does not provide any hooks for the GM, and will
therefore be of no consequence to the players. The history does not
help the GM in describing the current situation on the different
worlds.

There are no side-stories to introduce the GM or the players to the
mood of the campaign, except for a few paragraphs describing some key
events in history.

6. Hooks

Special Interest Groups (2.5 pages) are scantly described, no NPCs
are included. There is no introductory adventure. There is but one
suggestion longer than a few sentences for an adventure.

The description of the homeworlds is not colourful. The solar system
seems to be a rather boring place, quite in contrast to the
atmosphere described on the back cover and the introduction.

7. Conclusion

I was looking for an inspiring, light-hearted, and humorous source
book for the occasional session. Unfortunately, none of the three
expectations were satisfied.

The book is, however, a good implementation of the FUDGE rules. The
modified FUDGE rules are appropriate for the setting and provide
ample "objective" rules for the game. GMs preferring the subjective
style of gaming, unfortunately, will have little use for most of it.

In order to play adventures such as Santa (see above), experienced
GMs won't need Gatecrasher 2nd Ed.; having FUDGE will be enough.
Not-so-experienced GMs, however, and GMs trying to convince their
players to switch to FUDGE-based rules, might consider buying
Gatecrasher 2nd Ed. Having a printed copy of customized FUDGE rules
makes a lot of things much easier. In this case, I would suggest to
download and print FUDGE, or to buy a copy of FUDGE together with
Gatecrasher 2nd Ed.

I am looking forward to get more background material for Gatecrasher
GMs. The Santa adventure is a great starting point. If such
adventures continue to be published on Grey Ghost's web-site, this
will provide all the inspiration needed for some great lighthearted
and fun gaming sessions. This way, perhaps, more people will use and
buy Gatecrasher 2nd Ed. and/or FUDGE.

--
Grabbnoz Frugglipotz. Chraddlipopps Nuddelwotz. Gobnozgpofgrozg.
unreal: grub...@chrogni.botz.com, rig...@brat.wart.com, a...@no.net

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