Friday, August 8, 2014

Review: Jadetech - Green Jade (Jadepunk, Fate Core System)

Authors: Jacob Possin, with flash fiction by Benjamin Feehan
Cover Artist: Nicole Cardiff and Jesse Ferguson
Format: 16 page, bookmarked PDF (14.4 MB)
Site: http://www.rerollstore.com/collections/jadepunk/products/jadetech-green-jade-pdf 

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Overview

Mike - Before talking about the first Jadepunk supplement, Jadetech: Green Jade, let's talk a bit about MERPS (Middle-Earth Roleplaying System by ICE, Circa 1984-1999).

Reagan - Wait, what?

Bear with me a moment: there is a point to all of this.

MERPS is a wonder of 1980's RPG design: although a 'rules light' version of the ultra-crunchy Rolemaster engine, it is still ultra-crunchy beyond all comprehension compared to most modern systems.

This crunchiness extends to all aspects of the game: where Tolkien provided only a few lines of flavorful text, MERPS provides pages upon pages of detailed information, maps, character traits, stats, and tables. It takes the broad brush-strokes provided by the original creator's hand and fills in the fine details: ample fodder for the detail-oriented GM to set the scene in any possible scenario of a Middle-Earth based game.

So what does this have to do with the Jadetech: Green Jade supplement?

Well, herein we find the opposite approach employed; as in the main book, this expansion paints with a broad brush. It is about showing, not telling; it provides stories and flavorful examples.

This is a key point to talk, not just about this supplement, but the Jadepunk line in general. The majority of RPG products seem to follow the model of presenting the game rules and interspersing narrative and setting details in the sidebars and example text. Crunch over Fluff, if you will. The Jadepunk setting is well-written, full of flavor, and its obvious that a lot of time has been spent imagining what the society around this jade technology looks like.

Green Jade is the same in this respect, and I think its the right approach for the setting. Much of the mechanics are relegated to sidebars, to accentuate the narrative text. What text is devoted to mechanics reads as much as a suggestion on how to use it in a broad sense as opposed to actual mechanics, and I like it! Not only does it provide more space to reveal why the Jadepunk universe is the Jadepunk universe, but it allows GMs the option to mechanically flavor how green jade is both used and influences the game world however that GM likes. Bob's your uncle!

It shows some fine examples of green-jade gear (using the Assets build system found in the main book), it tells stories of the use of green jade in the game-world. No maps. No tables. No stats, apart from a few sample Assets. Instead, it paints a picture, and presents these pictures as fresh inspiration for your own campaign.

And it doesn't provide much in the way of new mechanics: the only mechanical addendum is the replacement of the 'secret' aspect with the 'instinct' aspect for creature NPC's. This is more of a tweak than a truly new mechanic. In conjunction with this idea, the book presents the idea of 'chaermera': animals enhanced in toughness and/also size by exposure to green jade.

Chaermeras are great - yet another example of how jade influences the overall gameworld. Given that Jadepunk was conceptualized originally as 'What if we mashed up old we-st gunslingers with wuxia heroes?' - you can see just how much the authors explored jade's societal impact.

With it's small size (16 pages total, including the back/front cover & credits page) and low price-point ($2.99 USD for the PDF at DriveThru RPG), Jadetech: Green Jade reminds me of the Gadget Guide and Power Profile PDF's for Mutants and Masterminds 3e

Like these guides, it is available as a low-price point PDF; and also like these supplements, it presents little - if anything - in the way of new rules; instead, it shows you how to use these rules to build new and wonderful things for your own game. Considering publisher +Ryan M. Danks publicly confessed love of Mutants & Masterminds, I can only assume that these parallels are the result of inspiration/emulation rather than coincidence.

You get a lot for $2.99!
Buy or Don't Buy?

Like Jadepunk itself, this supplement provides a beautiful and easy-to-read presentation. Also like the main book, it gives all the flavor you need about the subject at hand while providing plenty of whitespace to make it all your own.

But is it worth your hard-earned gaming dollars?

Well.... at US$2.99 for the PDF, it's basically an impulse buy. So I would think that price-point is hardly an obstacle for most. On the other hand, most of the beauty that the book presents will live on your computer/tablet screen only, unless you have the option of making a HQ printout.

  • Buy if: You love Jadepunk, and would like most examples of the setting and it's flavor for your table. Plus, it presents some great sample assets to use in play, or to inspire some of your own creations.
  • Don't buy: If you are using Jadepunk rules to run a generic campaign, there isn't much here for you. The chaemera rules might be of use to you for building beast-type NPC's, but I basically already spoiled that already in this review. On the other hand.... it's $2.99. You might want to download it anyhow for the read alone.

Final Word

Although this is a wonderful supplement- kudos to +Jacob Possin & +Benjamin Feehan for your lovely work here - this really isn't the Jadepunk supplement that I truly want.

I want mountains, Gandalf- mountains! I wish to know more about the larger world sketched in broad detail in the main Jadepunk book. Tell me more about the Cairn Mountains of Aerum; inform me about the Funarino Channel of Kaiyu. I'd love more on the history and conflicts between the major mining companies. Tell me about the honored traditions of the Nottila ship-captains! Show me how to run a game set in the fronteir-era of Kausao City, when the different powers jockeyed to see who would control the black jade of the Xibu Bati mountains. The Aerum Empire has airships!

I know that there are adventures to be had in Far Harad: tell me what I might find there. I want to know all that you can tell me.

But I have every faith that all of this - and more- will be explored in further supplements. And I cannot wait to see what Reroll Productions has in store for me going forward.

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Jadetech: Green Jade (Reroll Store)