Yes, I’m still around. This are just do damned busy but let’s get this post rolling. A few weeks ago before everything went pear shaped, I mentioned that I was thinking about Cypberpunk games and a kind Tavern goer over at Tenkar’s Tavern Facebook Group suggested that I look at Zaibastu. So I searched around the Net, read some reviews, and decided to pick it up. Wow, I’m glad that I did.
Zaibatsu uses a streamlined version of the Cepheus Engine. And just in case you didn’t know, the Cepheus Engine is basically old-school Traveler. At it’s most basic, it’s a skill based system with 2d6 resolution (which means that +1 means a hell of a lot more than the d20 systems). Unlike old Traveler, you won’t die in character generation.
Character generation is straight forward. Roll 2d6 for your stats, pick a career (that gets characters +1 with one skill and a piece of gear), buy some skills based on your Education stat. Then buy your Retrogenics. This is replaces the old standard of cybernetics. It’s one of the few places that the game has taken the approach of updating based on real world tech. I think of it as Alice from Resident Evil. But if you want to do with cybernetics then just change the name. It’s an old-school at its heart, you can do that. Wrapping up character generation, players can roll up an appearance, a contact, a life event, a pistol, a radio, and 4,000 Yen. And you’re ready to go.
As I mentioned previously, Zaibatsu uses a streamlined version of the rules. It uses Stat checks for “common” type tasks. Half the stat+2d6 and need to roll a total of 10 or better. Simple. Skill checks are basically the same (but ignore Stats) and require an 8 or better. The streamlined rules make the action move quickly. There’s no initiative but attacks are resolved in phases and considered simultaneous within each phase. First is melee attacks then ranged and then movement. This makes melee combat important even if everybody is carrying a gun. This makes combat pretty deadly. Making it even more dangerous, your armor only affects one attack. Ouch.
Since it’s a “modern” era game, there’s got to be some vehicle chase rules. We got those too. And it’s a simple and really easy to use system. It is a little abstract but I’d rather have that then an overly detailed system that would take hours to play out one chase. I especially like the “Weave” maneuver. The chased vehicle makes a check with a penalty and the chasers need to make their check with the same penalty in order to keep up. It kind of reminds me of the auction system from the old James Bond RPG.
You can’t have a cyberpunk game without hacking. And as many have mentioned over the years, this the point were so many cyberpunk games fail. A lot of times, it just ends up that the hacker goes off on their own adventure while everyone else sits around. Way back when I was running Cyberpunk 2020 and Shadowrun, I just house ruled that all the hackers were NPC’s. Zaibatsu solves this with a simple, fast and really interesting way. You sue a deck of cards. (Deck, get it?) Once again, I’ll explain it at its most basic. The hacker gets a number of free guesses based on their Skill level. Start guessing the suit of cards as they are drawn, and hope you don’t trigger the ICE. It’s that simple. Once again, this is some thing that I really like because of not only its simplicity but also it makes hacking different than regular actions in a way that’s fun and quick.
Zaibatsu comes along with its own setting. Characters are working for a megocorp (Zaibatsu) in the a dystopian Tokyo. It presents enough detail to be usable and still gives a GM plenty of room to maneuver and add their own stuff. Personally, I’m thinking of throwing together various bits and bobs from my old Cyberpunk and Shadowrun games. (Don’t worry. No magic stuff for this idea) and using primarily Cyberpunk’s Night City. There’s nothing that says you can’t. Both the crunchy bits of game material and the fluff put the game into a cool retro-future type tech level. It’s very much Blade Runner and William Gibson style attitude and setting. And speaking of Blade Runner. Zozer Games has another game Hostile which is set in the same universe. I havent picked up Hostile yet but it’s basically Aliens. And yes, Blade Runner and Aliens are the same universe.
So overall, I really like this game but… Yes there a couple of little annoyances. This has to do with organization. I noticed this especially with weapons and vehicles. It would be nice if all the stats were in the same place. For weapons, the damage and range are in one chapter but cost, ammo capacity and other stats are in a different chapter. The same goes for vehicles. It’s annoyance but doesn’t really undermine the game over all.
All in all, it’s a good game of low-lifes and high-tech. It’s about quick and dangerous combat. It presents itself with a sensible retro-tech style dystopian setting. I like and it’s probably going to be my go to system for cyberpunk when gaming gets back to “normal”. It’s not “rules lite” but as I like to put it rules efficient. It’s got that old school flair of rulings not rules and there’s plenty of room to house rule and tweak to your own setting or preferences.
You can find more resources over on Paul Elliott’s site.
You can pick up the PDF on Drivethru or a dead tree version on Lulu. NOTE: If you buy they dead tree version, you’ll get a free copy of the PDF.